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updated: 10/30/2010 9:19 PM

Greens sue Channel 11 over debate snubs

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Green Party candidates Rich Whitney and LeAlan Jones on Saturday filed a federal suit against WTTW-TV Channel 11 over being excluded from its candidate forums.

The suit seeks "injunctive, declaratory relief and monetary damages" for "the censorship of legally qualified candidates from debates hosted and publicly broadcast by a publicly funded, tax-exempt television station."

The suit argues that Channel 11 violated its public-broadcasting status through "political activity" by "sponsoring candidate debates that promoted two established parties' candidates and opposed one established party's candidates."

Whitney, running for governor against Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bill Brady, was excluded from their forum, as was Jones in the U.S. Senate forum between Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk.

Whitney and Jones both appealed to station management to be included in the forums, but were denied. "The Green Party tried to resolve this without resorting to litigation," said their lead attorney, Christopher Kruger, of Evanston, "but Channel 11 basically blew them off."

Channel 11 did invite Tom Tresser of the Green Party to take part in the Cook County Board presidential forum including Democratic Hyde Park Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle and Wilmette Republican Rogers Keats. Kruger said he wasn't sure if that would figure in the argument in court.

Channel 11 did not return a call for comment.