Florida news station sued for denying candidate entry to debate

A joint complaint by the Republican Party of Florida and the campaign of Republican Congressional District 9 candidate Scotty Moore, accuses WESH-2 News of violating Florida law when the station denied Moore entry to a political debate for not having up-to-date COVID vaccine documentation.

Moore was invited, along with his opponent, to a debate hosted by WESH-2 on September 8. Upon arriving at the television studios, the Republican was required to document in writing whether he had received the latest COVID-19 vaccinations. When he disclosed that he had not, Moore was not allowed to debate.

“The decision by WESH-2 to cancel the Congressional District 9 debate because of a candidate’s vaccination status is discriminatory, unlawful and will not be ignored by the Republican Party of Florida,” RPOF Chairman Joe Gruters said. “It is beyond absurd that in 2022, as Florida has moved past the COVID-19 pandemic, our Republican nominees are discriminated against based on their private medical decisions.”

Moore reportedly offered alternatives to WESH-2’s requirements, such as taking a rapid test, but was refused. At least one other Republican was also reportedly prohibited from participating. WESH-2 News’s parent company, Hearst Television requires COVID-19 vaccination of all employees and guests.

“Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature made it abundantly clear that COVID passports and vaccination requirements will not be tolerated in our state,” Gruters continued. “WESH-2 and Hearst Television must be held accountable for violating Florida law and should schedule a new, in-person debate at their studio as soon as possible so Central Florida voters can make informed decisions on election day.”

RPOF argues the policy violates a law passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor DeSantis in 2021 that prohibits businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccine documentation.