After criticizing Rep. Jim Costa for no-showing at several candidate forums, 16th District challenger Esmeralda Soria missed a live televised debate Tuesday night.

Held at the Fox KMPH 26 studio (and simulcast on KMJ radio), Costa, fellow Democrat Kim Williams, and Republican Kevin Cookingham answered questions for an hour. Soria, also a Democrat, attended voter meet-and-greets in Los Banos and Merced instead.

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“We also sent a total of five invitations to Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria to participate in tonight’s debate. She declined each one,” moderator Rich Rodriguez, a KMPH anchor, said at the beginning of the telecast.

And, the station included an empty podium with Soria’s name on a placard on the set that was visible to viewers.

No candidate directly addressed Soria’s absence. Topics included health care, high-speed rail, and the coronavirus threat.

A few hours before the debate, Soria complained on Twitter about KMPH’s treatment of her.

Soria Accuses KMPH of Bias

Esmeralda Soria

“I don’t appreciate being treated different. I do believe in this instance I’m being treated different.”Esmeralda Soria

Soria’s tweet responded to a post by Fresno mayoral candidate Andrew Janz in which he said that fellow candidate mayoral Jerry Dyer declined to participate in a proposed KMPH debate. Soria said the station treated Dyer differently.

It’s interesting that @KMPHFOX26 gave Dyer a pass but threatened me, a Democrat woman of color for being unable to attend their forum that is not open to the public. They claim to be nonpartisan but their actions suggest otherwise,” Soria wrote.

On Wednesday, Soria told GV Wire:

“They’re not doing that to the Republican candidate for mayor. … So they’re giving him a pass (for not participating). I don’t appreciate being treated different. I do believe in this instance I’m being treated different. Just compare the emails. I even heard from media folks that those were pretty rude emails to send. No other media outlet would do that. I feel that they’ve done it intentionally because I am a Democrat and I am a woman. I do believe that because it wasn’t done towards a Republican mayoral candidate who was a man.”

Soria said that KMPH News Director Jim Turpin contacted her campaign on Feb. 17 about the debate, after Costa confirmed. She said it was too late to change her plans.

“We tried to adjust our schedule, but it just couldn’t work out. We needed to be out with the voters in the district,” Soria said.

Email Exchange

According to a screenshot of an email exchange posted by Soria, Turpin wrote on Feb. 19:

“No skin off my nose if you forfeit the opportunity … And if you choose not to participate in the debate, I will put a ‘Soria’ name placard on the vacant podium. I resent the tone of your email. If you choose not to take the free airtime and interview, please don’t try to blame anyone else.”

In the message, Turpin said that he first sent the invitation on Feb. 4.

Emails supplied the Soria campaign indicated that the Feb. 4 date regarded a one-on-one sit-down interview. The first invitation for the debate appears to have been sent Feb. 17, eight days before the event.

KMPH Responds

“She obviously had her reasons (not to attend) and all of that is up to her, not to us.  The debate was an outstanding event.”KMPH News Director Jim Turpin

Turpin told GV Wire that his station extended numerous invitations for Soria to join the broadcast.

“She obviously had her reasons (not to attend) and all of that is up to her, not to us.  The debate was an outstanding event. We would never allow any kind of bias in the debate or in any of our news content,” Turpin said.

Turpin praised the debate and the questions asked.

“I think District 16 voters saw clear differences between the candidates. That is as it should be. As we intended, there were no ‘gotcha’ questions or answers anywhere in the debate. We are proud of the debate, and the high quality of the event speaks for itself,” Turpin said.

He added that Soria’s campaign canceled sitting for a long-form interview segment that would have been posted to the KMPH website.

“That door was never closed by us and will not be,” Turpin said. “We never closed the door to her debate participation, either. We would have placed her on the set at the last moment had she wanted that,” Turpin said.

Criticizing Costa

Last week, Soria criticized Costa in a campaign email for failing to attend a Feb. 20 district forum at Fresno State.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised that Jim didn’t show up,” Soria said. “He hasn’t shown up for students, immigrants, and working families in decades. Instead, he’s spending thousands of dollars from corporate PACs attacking me on TV and radio and misleading voters. I’m always honored to talk about the issues affecting Valley families.”

When asked about her criticism of Costa for not showing up, but then not showing up herself, Soria said she’s attended at least four other forums that Costa skipped.

6 Responses

  1. SandraC

    Oh, yes. Soria the “victim”.

    Something “triggers” this cupcake, and she plays the “I’m a woman of color”.

    Guess what, Toots? No one cares about your plumbing or your skin. You “no-showed.”

  2. Bill Thacker

    Was disappointed Esmeralda didnt show up. She seems too thin- skinned for politics at a federal level in a district she was not brought up in.
    Sora would have shown she stands u po against Costas bullyism but instead folded like a coward .
    Jerry Dyer has no more to prove on his ability to lead and take on the challenges facing Fresno. 40 years of stellar performance (not oerfect yet striving for perfection) Janz is not cut out to lead Fresno he shirked his responsibility to lock away dangerous criminals one a school shooter walked because Janz was too busy attacking Nunes to do his work. Janz and Dyer have already had a debate via GV wire and via other formats. Besides if you want to know Janz’s agenda just read simpleton Bernie Sanders sound bites ” income inequality” ” new green deal” ” medicare for all” then you have Tulare native Janz.

  3. vgentile

    Soria should not have used race as as any excuse of mistreatment, no one feels that way. Tired of that excuse.

    If she didn’t show, was her choice, she can live with it.

  4. Yezdyar Kaoosji

    By placing a vacant podium with Candidate Soria’s name on it, KMPH has acted unprofessionally. When a candidate does not attend a debate, for any reason, the hosting organization loses its credibility by adopting such theatrics.

    • Bill Thacker

      Dont you love America where you can express an opinion?
      Soria gave up the right to debate then chalks it up to ‘being a woman of color” makes no sense.
      Often times debates are unattended because the forum has an “agenda” your Community Alliance “voice of the progressives” has tried to sponsor forums or interview many candidates that they obviously dislike and have childishly called some candidates ‘chicken” and other names for not willing to be subject to the same ole progressive unprofessional tactics of ” let’s attack the oppostion” it’s no secret your contempt for local candidates .
      What you need to question is why one progressive candidate Kim William’s had the class and political etiquette to show up and actually express her views (aka Bernies plan) and was civil in delivering her plans and respectfully disagreed as needed .
      KMPH has a long history of professionalism and fair balance in Central California. Despite being a “Fox affiliate” which you progressives generally hate for not joining your echo chamber, candidate William’s was noticeably treated with respect and professionalism as she extended the same to the other candidates in the debate and to the hosts.
      I respect your opinion Mr. Kaoosji, but I reserve the right to disagree and point out numerous lack of credibility to the “Community Alliance” biased negative tones expressed on numerous articles.
      2 progressive candidates, 1 shows up graciously expressing her views. The other rejects the invitation 5 times then cries “foul” but you contend that in the spirit of open communication putting a sign with the candidates name at an empty podium some how lacked credibility?
      Sorias backers need to decide why she didnt seize the opportunity to be their voice on a highly rated award winning channel which will also air on Valley PBS and could be heard on KMJ radio. Some Soria backers felt disappointed she dropped the ball to be their voice.

  5. Sahara Avila

    Will you people stop?! If Esmeralda Soria feels she is being treated differently it’s because she’s being treated differently. Shes not pulling the race card, that’s how she feels and she has every right to express how she feels. KMPH you knew Soria was not going to show up to this event, who’s idea was it to still place the podium with her name on it??? That was done out of spite to ridicule her and make her look unprofessional. Quit the drama and do your job


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