Irish national broadcaster charged with bias against presidential candidate Sean Gallagher
RTE charged with bias again
Former candidate for the presidency Sean Gallagher has called for the “full discovery” of communications within state broadcaster RTÉ surrounding the Frontline TV program fronted by Pat Kenny during which a controversial tweet was broadcast during the presidential election campaign.
Gallagher on Monday confirmed he had written to Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte calling for an inquiry after claims made in the Sunday Independent by a member of the audience during the candidates’ debate broadcast on October 24.
That audience member, businessman Pat McGuirk, 43, from Newbliss, Co. Monaghan claimed he had been groomed by program staff for his question. He said he had wanted to ask a question about presidential pay, but after a conversation with the Frontline team he had been given a question that asserted that most of the 100 jobs created by Gallagher during the boom were now gone.
The latest dispute follows a finding by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) last week that a complaint from Gallagher about a bogus tweet read by Kenny was unfair but “was not of such a serious nature as to warrant an investigation or public hearings.”
The BAI found no evidence that RTE, Kenny or the production team had deliberately constructed the program in a manner that lacked objectivity or impartiality.
Gallagher, an independent with past links to Fianna Fail, was ahead in the race for the presidency when Frontline was broadcast last October.
But the tweet read by Kenny, and which was not corrected although program staff knew within minutes that it was bogus -- and was still not corrected on a Kenny radio show next morning -- is widely believed to have cost Gallagher the presidency.
The tweet was prompted by a high-profile series of claims and denials that Gallagher was still linked to fundraising for Fianna Fail despite having resigned from the party and run as an Independent.
Michael D. Higgins soared past Gallagher to win the presidential poll days later.
Within days of the BAI finding that there was no evidence that Kenny or his production team on
Frontline deliberately constructed a program that lacked objectivity or impartiality, McGuirk challenged the assertion.
He told the Sunday Independent he wanted to ask a question about the salary of the president.
Instead, after discussion with the Frontline team his question was changed to focus on the job creation record of entrepreneur Gallagher.
Moments before the live debate he was told to state, “I’m sick and tired of hearing from Sean Gallagher about jobs. He created 100 jobs in the boom and most of them are gone. I think he’s too cute for his own good.”
McGuirk told the paper he was “shocked” by the “hostile” nature of the question and couldn’t bring himself to utter it when Kenny approached him on screen.
Instead, he asked his own version of the question, “Sean, in the boom time you created 100 jobs and how many of them are still in existence? People are sick and tired of hearing about creating jobs, so how many of them are still there?”
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