UNC, PNM fight over TV presenter's comments

A war of words erupted between the PNM and the UNC on Friday, the day after CNC Morning Brew presenter Natalee Legore drew comparisons between supporters of outgoing US President Donald Trump storming the Capitol in Washington, DC (fuelled by Trump's claims that last November's US presidential election was fraudulent) and claims of election fraud by the UNC in last August's general election.

Amidst the verbal feud between the PNM and UNC, rumours circulated that the TV station had fired the Jamaican-born Legore and CNC3 journalist Akash Samaroo, who co-hosts the Morning Brew talk show with her.

But Legore told Newsday, "I don't know what you're speaking about. I am not aware of any firing of anybody. So if you get any information to the contrary, let me know."

Samaroo could not be reached for comment. But sources close to him said he is still employed with CNC3.

Efforts to reach top officials at CNC3 for comment on the rumours of Legore and Samaroo's dismissals were also unsuccessful.

During the Morning Brew show on Thursday, Legore told Samaroo the reaction of the people in the US to Trump claiming last November's US presidential election was fraudulent was different from the reaction of people in TT to the UNC making similar allegations.

"I am wondering this morning who is going to blame Kamla for this," Samaroo replied.

"Well, here I am. Well, here I am," Legore said."What President Trump is doing is casting doubt and creating a false narrative about election fraud. You're saying that didn't happen here?"

Samaroo replied, "The UNC didn't ask people to storm the Parliament."

Legore said, "Donald Trump didn't ask people to storm...What I am saying is, there is a narrative and what you have to say will inform people as to how they should act. The difference is that the people of TT reacted differently to the people of the US."

Samaroo observed, "The UNC is not the only party to have ever cast doubt."

He concluded, "I am not going to make any link between the two. What I can say is that this is the desperation of a man facing political eviction and I will say that it got so bad that his yes-men had to denounce it."

In a statement issued by its new PRO Kirk Meighoo, the UNC demanded that Legore apologise for her comments.

Legore did not comment on this call from the UNC.

Meighoo claimed, "Her baseless, inappropriate and offensive remarks have provoked a flurry of senseless, distracting statements from official organs of the PNM, which is quite revealing."

Meighoo argued that the Prime Minister and other organs of the PNM were not defending free speech, but instead, "They act as though they are fiercely protecting one of their own, who shamelessly and repeatedly forwards their nefarious political agenda."

Meighoo further alleged that the PNM "are no enablers of free expression, but of wrongdoing."

Claiming this was a case of the PNM playing "wrong and strong" and then throwing more mud, Meighoo declared, "We will not be deterred, derailed or distracted."

He said the UNC was "attacked unprovoked with inappropriate and inflammatory statements" by Legore. and until it receives an apology, the matter remains unresolved.

He also said the UNC had filed an official complaint to the Telecommunications Authority and the owners and managers of CNC3.

"We insist on an apology, failing which the party and its hundreds of thousands of members will decide on an appropriate response."

In response, PNM PRO Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing countered, "The PNM is disgusted by the continued actions of the UNC as it ruthlessly attacks the media in TT, and assaults the professionalism and intelligence of one of the most thorough and straightforward female members of the media in this country."

She said Legore "holds no brief for the PNM and vice versa."

Lezama Lee Sing, added, "The PNM will not condone the unwarranted attacks on the nation's media and on its women.

"It is a shame that the UNC is unrelenting in its pursuit to discredit and to control the media in TT from (sic) none other than its own newly inserted media liaison, in his desperate bid for relevance."

UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced Meighoo as the party's new PRO at a virtual meeting on Monday. He replaced Tabaquite MP Anita Haynes.

Lezama-Lee Sing argued, "The fact remains that it is the UNC, in its incredulous reaction to being rejected by the population in every election since 2010, that attempted to diminish the independence of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC)."

She said ahead of last year's election, the UNC cast aspersions on the independence and capabilities of the EBC, and after the UNC lost the election, "It was the UNC that demanded recounts, using delay tactics to frustrate the process, and to stall the installation of the duly elected government."

She said it was no surprise that when "an independent female member of the media" asks a simple question, the UNC "reacts petulantly and seeks to dispense with her."

Lezama-Lee Sing argued that the UNC assumes itself to be unquestionable and ought to be able to bully members of the media and their parent media companies.

"It is further clear that the UNC, despite being led by a woman, is unable to stand up to the strength of a forthright and professional woman."

In a separate statement, the PNM Women's League said there was no need for Legore to apologise to the UNC. Agreeing with the points raised by Lezama-Lee Sing, the league said, "Ms Legore was being factual, the UNC cannot make up their own facts as is their wont. Facts are indeed stubborn things."

This is the latest incident in which questions have been raised about political pressure on the media. In November 2008, then prime minister the late Patrick Manning was criticised for visiting the offices of Radio 94.1 FM, after a broadcast criticised his government's policies.

In March 2013, Persad-Bissessar (then prime minister) claimed there were "rogue” reporters in the media who were being unfair to her PP government. In that same year, then sports minister (now opposition senator) Anil Roberts criticised a daily newspaper and questioned a reporter’s personal finances. Persad-Bissessar claimed, "“The evidence we have been seeing is that some so-called media professionals are not being fair to this government and are not reporting on the achievements and successes of the government."


"UNC, PNM fight over TV presenter’s comments"

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