KHQ is reporting that Republican state Senate candidate Michael Baumgarter deleted questions to him from Facebook users during a KHQ Facebook interview last week.
Mark Billings, executive assignment producer at KHQ, said the Baumgartner campaign admitted to deleting questions they felt were biased and likely written by supporters of his opponent, incumbent Democrat state Sen. Chris Marr.
This campaign season, KHQ’s Facebook page has hosted question and answer sessions with almost 10 candidates. Billings, who has organized the events, said candidates come to the KHQ newsroom and are signed on using KHQ’s Facebook account.
Billings said the session was monitored by a KHQ staff member, but that person was looking for cuss words and vulgarity. The moderator didn’t notice that some questions had been deleted.
Baumgartner, who was the 7th candidate to participate in the KHQ Facebook feature, was told that he had the right to “answer or not answer any question.” Billings said. He also was told that a moderator would be watching the posts and to check with the moderator if problems arose.
Billings said he did not specifically tell Baumgartner that he was not allowed to delete posts, but that ”I felt that was pretty clear.”
Here is a bit of what KHQ posted on Facebook earlier today about the incident:
“… We asked Mr. Baumgartner why he had deleted posts and he said that he objected to “obvious Marr campaign plants” who kept asking questions he felt he had already answered. … Mr. Baumgartner went on to say that he felt that those people were being “obnoxious” so he deleted the posts. KHQ personnel told Mr. Baumgartner before his appearance on the KHQ Local News page, that a KHQ Facebook Administrator would be monitoring the posts and would be in charge of deleting any vulgar or inappropriate… posts and that Baumgartner would not need to delete posts.”
KHQ can’t retrieve the deleted posts. Billings said, based on what what he was told by the campaign, that “at least a couple” likely were cut.
The deletions came to light after someone submitted a post demanding to “STOP THE CENSORSHIP!” The “STOP THE CENSORSHIP!” comment was posted after Baumgartner left.
“He no longer had the ability to access the page as an administrator,” said KHQ’s Neal Boling, executive news director.
Since the incident, Billings said, he’s been exceedingly clear” with candidates that posts can’t be deleted.
Marr’s KHQ Facebook session is tonight.