In their first televised debate, the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate agreed the loser was civility — when one participant called another a pro-Israel “whore.”
The name calling didn’t come until the end and it was panned by four of the five Democratic candidates.
“I’m dealing with whore here who sells his soul to AIPAC,” Greenwich resident Lee Whitnum said, referring to U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy’s support for Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
She went on to call state Rep. William Tong, who had earlier defended Murphy, “ignorant,” and said his “response to what I said is just shocking. I’m speaking from documented fact.”
Earlier in the debate she said it was the neo-conservatives and their allegiance to AIPAC that led the United States into an unnecessary war in Iraq. Whitnum doesn’t believe the United States should be providing any aid to Israel.
“I believe AIPAC is a cancer in our government,” Whitnum said.
She went on to say that Murphy drank “the AIPAC Kool-Aid.”
Click here to watch NBC’s footage of the final exchange.
The comments made all the other candidates think twice about whether it was wise to advocate for all the candidates to be included in the debates.
“I’d advocated for all the candidates to be a part of these debates. I might think twice about that with that kind of awful language being used on the airwaves,” Murphy replied to Whitnum at the beginning of his closing arguments.
As he left the studio Murphy said he’s been called a lot of bad names over the last five years, but “there’s no place for that language in a civilized political campaign.”
Murphy said he hadn’t thought about excluding any of the candidates from the debates. He said he was just trying to acknowledge in his closing statements that comments like that don’t have a place in debates.
“Anytime you’re screaming, yelling, and calling names you’re detracting from the debate,” Murphy said.
As she was leaving the studio Whitnum admitted she called Murphy a “whore” and conceded “I probably came on a little bit strong.”
“I wasn’t really thrilled with the way it turned out,” Whitnum said as an NBC employee tired to get her microphone unhooked before she left the building.
As reporters questioned her by the exit, a West Hartford police officer hired by NBC for the hour-long televised debate stood nearby.
Tong, former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, and Matthew Oakes said they too advocated for all the candidates to be included, but all three agreed Whitnum should not be included in any future debates.
Oakes, who said he spoke the loudest about including all the candidates in the debates, said Whitnum should not be included.
“The fact that she just attempted to ruin the good that I was trying to do is offensive to me,” Oakes said. “I can’t say ‘include us in the debates, all of us,’ if she’s going to be that offensive,” Oakes said.
It was the second debate for three of the five candidates. Whitnam and Oakes were not included in the first one.
“We had a very productive conversation in Norwich,” Tong said referring to the first debate which excluded Oakes and Whitnum. “And there was a lawsuit filed over access to that debate. What we want is a productive conversation.”
The lawsuit to which Tong referred was filed by Whitnum against the Norwich Bulletin for excluding her from the debate. The strategy didn’t work. She was excluded from the debate.
Bysiewicz, who held public office for 19 years, said she’s never been in a debate situation where candidates were calling each other names. She said that’s what the problem is in Washington D.C. right now. “There’s a lack of civility,” she said.
Tong agreed, saying that it “takes away frankly from the voters getting to hear what we’re about.”
Both Bysiewicz and Tong said Oakes should be included in future debates and added that he contributed to the conversation with his life experience.
The five are expected to meet again Monday for a debate sponsored by The Hartford Courant and Fox 61 at the University of Connecticut.