Educational access TV cancels Kyrillos interview with U.S. Attorney

Brookdale Community College has canceled State Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos’ cable television show, saying the college does not want to

Brookdale Community College has canceled State Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos’ cable television show, saying the college does not want to be at the flashpoint of a political campaign.


Kyrillos had hoped to show himself in conversation with U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie, an unabashed critic of state officials and arguably the GOP's favorite leading man. But the interview Kyrillos did with the feisty Christie may air after the Nov. 6th election, and not before, said Cheryl Cummings, executive director of the Brookdale Network, which produced the program.

"The program is not running," Cummings told PoliticsNJ.com. "It’s been produced, but it’s not running." She called a plug on Kyrillos’ website alerting viewers to the pre-election times and dates of his show "inaccurate information."

She said the initial green-light go ahead from a "lower level" production member at Brookdale was a "mistake."

Kyrillos, in Boston Monday for a Mitt Romney fundraiser, was disappointed.

"That’s their prerogative," said the five-term Republican senator from Monmouth County, on learning of the college’s decision not to air the show. Kyrillos’ interview with the corruption-busting Christie had been scheduled to run Tuesday evenings on Brookdale’s Channel 21, which operates under the umbrella of the cable network Comcast.

A Kyrillos press release noted that Channel 15, which is owned by Cablevision, is also scheduled to air "Tour of New Jersey," as is Comcast Channel 97.

"I still submitted it to the other channels," Kyrillos spokesperson Courtney A. Fagan said Monday of the roughly half-hour show featuring Kyrillos and Christie. The college, which receives taxpayer funds, pays the bulk of the production costs for Kyrillos’ show.

Cummings acknowledged that federal law requires broadcast entities to offer equal time to political candidates, but drew a distinction between public access and educational access. "Public access channels are open to the public," said Cummings. "What programs go on the channel (21) are determined by Brookdale, and they are educational programs."

Comcast spokesman Fred DeAndrea said the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows windows of up to 60 days for candidates to run public access programing before a general election.

"Kyrillos is up for re-election," DeAndrea said. "He’s well within his rights to air the program before the election. …When you’re talking about equal opportunity, it’s incumbent upon (an opposing) candidate to say that he wants equal time under the rules of the Federal Communications Commission."

But DeAndrea confirmed Cummings’ point when he added, "The college has its own rules to determine access." And Brookdale, Cummings insisted, does not want to get in the middle of the district 13 election.

The conventional wisdom is that Kyrillos is the favorite in his race against Democrat Leonard Inzerillo of Middletown, a firefighter who ran for the Assembly in 2003 and lost by 244 votes. A weekly repeated television appearance with the formidable Christie, a personal friend of Kyrillos’, would be radiant finishing gloss to the senator’s 2007 campaign.

"Kyrillos is trying to align himself with the forces of good government," said David Rebovich, executive director of the Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. "Christie is the most popular Republican in New Jersey, and the gentlemanly Kyrillos has positioned himself as a meaningful Republican in a pivotal but changing area of the state."

Inzerillo said he likes his chances against Kyrillos given his earlier Assembly race showing.

"I like to believe there are those in the party who think I have a shot," the candidate added. "There are two teams on the ballfield and a lot of good, hard work to do."

Regarding Brookdale’s decision to yank Kyrillos’ show, Inzerillo said, "Did Brookdale agree to it initially under a misconception of why they were doing it? I don’t know the answer to that question."

Cummings said the policy was established in 2002, and underscored that the initial, pre-election scheduling of the show was simply "an oops."

In recent months, the outspoken Christie has appeared with state representatives in town forums as he’s provided information about crime fighting and good government and taken questions from citizens. He's also publicly called into question the leadership attributes of Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine and is widely viewed as a challenger to Corzine in 2009. This past spring, the U.S. attorney appeared at a Middletown event with Kyrillos, where the pair faced a crowd roused out of their chairs by Christie’s impassioned remarks about citizenship.

Addressing the Kyrillos-Christie effect, local Democrats complain that the U.S. Attorney has let it be known in at least one instance that he does not want his much coveted image used in connection with campaign literature.

"I know Christie warned the Mayor of Marlboro not to use his name, there was a letter to that effect stating that his name was not to be used in any publicity," said Victor Scudiery, chairman of the Monmouth County Democratic Party.

The letter in question, dated Jan. 22, 2007, was written by Christie to a concerned citizen who'd contacted the U.S. Attorney regarding Marlboro Mayor Robert Kleinberg, who'd invited Christie to a reorganization meeting and posed with him in pictures.

"If any photo shows up in any campaign material, I will put a stop to it immediately," Christie wrote back to the citizen.

Educational access TV cancels Kyrillos interview with U.S. Attorney