In a surprise decision that suddenly captivated political talk in Raleigh, North Carolina, on the weekend before the election on Nov. 8, PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) North Carolina announced it was canceling its last surviving political talk show.
But far more dramatic than the scuttling of "Front Row With Marc Rotterman" are the circumstances of its demise. After eight years and a reputation for assembling a strictly bipartisan weekly panel to discuss state issues and politics, "Front Row" will apparently not be renewed because, as its host Rotterman tweeted, "Apparently I'm not woke enough."
A week later, the coffee shops and pubs at which Raleigh's political classes gather are still debating whether Rotterman is right — that his program went down for purely political reasons.
Rotterman and PBS's director of the North Carolina Channel, Kelly McCullen, had an exchange of emails in September about the content of his program. At different points in this exchange, they had disagreements.
"Front Row has been the finest analysis show in my opinion," McCullen emailed, "but we're slipping further and further to the right and it's not necessary."
The problem with that statement is it simply holds no water.
Rotterman, to be sure, is a former Reagan Administration official and well-known Republican media maestro and strategist whose past clients include the late conservative icon and Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. However, this has in no way thwarted Rotterman and his executive producer wife Karen from recruiting high-powered Democrats as guests — or from finding sponsors.
Among the high-profile Democrats who have sat down with Republicans for an always-convivial discussion presided over by Rotterman are Morgan Jackson, top adviser to Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper, and state House Democrat Leader Robert Reives. The onetime GOP operative even secured six interviews with State Attorney General Josh Stein, considered the certain Democrat nominee for governor in 2024 (when Cooper will be termed out).
Of Rotterman's lack of either bias or partisanship on the air, there is near-universal agreement. As Morgan Jackson told said in a testimonial on the host's website: "Marc Rotterman calls balls and strikes on Front Row and he makes a point to ensure all views are heard and respected."
This is not the first time a political talk show has been axed by PBS North Carolina. Two years ago, noted the North Carolina Tribune, "North Carolina Spin was canceled and then reinstated over what host Tom Campbell said was his criticism of the [University of North Carolina] Board of Governors. The UNC board also oversees the station and hires its CEO."
Debate about the fate of "Front Row With Marc Rotterman" is ongoing in Raleigh and what happens next is uncertain. But one thing observers on all sides agree is that Rotterman will not go away quietly.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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