A quietly deleted line from a KREM story sparked a mayoral candidate forum's most tense exchange

click to enlarge Mayoral candidates Nadine Woodward and Ben Stuckart (foreground) at the second League of Women Voters forum. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
Daniel Walters photo
Mayoral candidates Nadine Woodward and Ben Stuckart (foreground) at the second League of Women Voters forum.
On the issue of climate change, mayoral candidate Nadine Woodward has been comparatively quiet. Her opponent, City Council President Ben Stuckart, has given fiery speeches, with the smoke-smeared sun blood-red behind him, on the necessity of passing an ordinance to push the city toward a 100 percent renewable energy standard. Woodward, however, did not respond to either an invitation to participate in a climate change forum hosted by the 350 Spokane activist group nor to the group's questionnaire.

And when she filled out a questionnaire by the socially conservative "We Believe, We Vote" group, Woodward declined to answer questions on issues like gay marriage, abortion and the Second Amendment.

"As a candidate in the nonpartisan race for Spokane mayor, I will only focus on local issues that pertain to city government and not national issues," Woodward wrote. "Thank you for the chance to respond to those questions that impact the Mayor’s Office."

On the other hand, when she launched her campaign, she criticized what she described as the council's attempt to "dictate energy use."

On Tuesday, at the League of Women Voter's forum, Woodward responded to a question about how the city can fight climate change by applauding a number of environmental efforts from the city, including stormwater projects, the use of vehicles with compressed natural gas and the use of waste composting.

She said the city needed to do more to reduce its carbon footprint, before criticizing the City Council's aspirational ordinance to move Spokane's community electricity supply to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

"Our hardworking taxpayers, many of them who are already paycheck by paycheck, would never be able to afford those types of changes," Woodward says.

Stuckart noted that Avista testified in favor of the ordinance. And he also claimed that Woodward, just a few days earlier, had said the ordinance wasn't a local issue.

"I am surprised by my opponent's answer, because on Friday on KREM, she stated that climate change wasn't a local issue," Stuckart says. "But I'm glad to hear her change her mind."

Woodward leaped in to object.

"I never said that," Woodward said.

"Yes, you did," Stuckart responded. "It's on KREM right now." 

"I didn't say it," Woodward said.

And that, of course, sent the reporters in the room scurrying to check KREM right now to see who was right. And initially, it looked like Stuckart was completely wrong. The KREM story featured a generic statement about green energy and natural resources, but didn't say anything about whether climate change wasn't a local issue.
Not only that, on Monday, Stuckart made a post on Facebook, linking to the KREM story, making a similar claim.

"Spokane cannot afford to waste four years on an anti-science mayor who believes climate, pollution and our local environment are someone else's issue," he wrote. "It is absurd that my opponent believes climate change is not a 'local issue'."

But Stuckart wasn't entirely full of it. The KREM story had been changed before the debate.

The cached version of the story included a statement from Woodward's campaign spokeswoman claiming that "environmental policies are more of a state and national issue, rather than municipal."
Technically, Woodward hadn't said that climate change wasn't a local issue. But her campaign spokeswoman initially had. But that comment had been airbrushed out of the story. 

(In an email to the Inlander, Woodward campaign spokeswoman Allison Walther argued that "that comment was between me and a reporter regarding scheduling and does not reflect the views of our campaign.")

Stuckart was irritated. He says he called up the KREM reporter, frustrated that the quote had been scrubbed, and that he'd effectively been called a liar in the debate. 

"I said, 'dude, if they sent you that, you can’t take that off the story,'" Stuckart says.
Stuckart says he came away from the conversation with the KREM reporter with the perception that KREM had agreed to remove the quote as to not jeopardize the upcoming debate.

That sparked this tweet from Stuckart:  ... and this comment from KREM:
Today, the KREM story has this line at the top:    

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally included a statement from Nadine Woodward's campaign manager saying "Environmental policies are a more of a state and national issue, rather than municipal." That statement was removed once it was clarified that it was not on behalf of the candidate.

But Stuckart says that raises more questions going forward.

"If I’m mayor, and the communications director gives a statement, and then I decide I don’t like it, will the press be scrubbing that from their website?" he asks. 

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...