Controversy is once again surrounding the League of Women Voters. After a LWV moderator last week refused to allow a debate audience to say the Pledge of Allegiance, forcing them to break out into a spontaneous, unsanctioned recitation, the same thing happened in a Pittsburgh, PA suburb on Tuesday.
As a debate between Democrat congressional hopeful Dan Connolly and Republican incumbent Rep. Tim Murphy was about to begin, Murphy asked the moderator if they could say the Pledge. The moderator hesitated, and began explaining that starting with the Pledge is not the usual way to begin and that it would take too much time. The crowd ignored her explanation, stood up, and recited their allegiance:
Arlene Levy, president of the Greater Pittsburgh LWV and former history teacher, spoke about the incident afterwords. She believes the requests are political and an attempt to intentionally disturb the forums.
"There have been some groups who want to create a ruckus, call attention to something and using the pledge to the flag and making it seem the League is unpatriotic if we don't," she said.
Both candidates, however, seem surprised by the moderator's opposition.
"I see it as something completely a-political. It's something that unites all of Americans," Connolly said after the debate.
"If the flag is political, then we have some problems here. The flag is what brings us together," Murphy added.
"The insensitivity [of the moderator], to me, was inexcusable and outrageous," Tom Hajzus, a former high school prinicpal, registered Democrat, and Murphy supporter, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He said the crowd's reaction "was an American moment, that's what that was."
The moderator was Susan Ruether, listed on the local Washington County LWV website as a committee member in charge of media communications. She declined to comment to the Gazette.
She did however comment to Murphy during the debate that "next time if you have a request like that, we would appreciate it if you would give it to us when the rules are discussed," according to the Gazette.
"It didn't need to be requested. I assumed you would do it," Murphy replied.
The incident doesn't sit well with Stephen Gutowski over at Eyeblast.tv, who is left asking a plethora of questions:
Why is it that both times this has happened the League seems to believe that its a result of some kind of conspiracy to attack them? Seriously, who connects a desire to recite the pledge with some sort of grand conspiracy to take them down?
Besides, how long exactly does it take to recite the pledge? A minute? Why do these moderators seem to believe its going to cut into debate time?
Levy told KDKA-TV that the Greater Pittsburgh LWV is considering now incorporating the Pledge into every candidate debate.