Participants in Gideon’s “Virtual Town Hall” Were Pre-Screened and Forced to Sign Model Releases
Augusta, ME – Sara Gideon, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, staged a fake “Virtual Town Hall” meeting last week to provide footage for a TV ad that is now running on Maine television. Gideon’s campaign posted notice of the online videoconference meetings to social media, but did not allow open participation by the general public. Instead, the campaign pre-screened participants and forced registrants to sign releases that allowed their words and images to be used in campaign advertising prior to being cleared to participate. The campaign has also not released the actual video of the “Town Halls” on social media.
In her television ad, Gideon claims to be holding “Virtual Town Halls,” and appears to be interacting with Mainers through an online videoconference system.
“We’re going to continue to innovate in this way and reach out and talk to people across this state for as long as we are in this space,” Gideon says in the ad. “There is nothing more important to me.”
In order to participate in this staged event, Gideon required participants to “irrevocably grant” her campaign sole ownership of their images and the things they said during the videoconference, including their “name, likeness, voice, story, comments, and persona, in any manner or media and for any purpose whatsoever at the sole discretion of the campaign.”
“Forcing Mainers to be in a television commercial before they can ask a question is not a ‘town hall’ in any way,” said Demi Kouzounas, chair of the Maine Republican Party. “These were staged events, pre-screened to only allow hardcore supporters to participate. It’s disingenuous that Sara Gideon would now try to pass these off as actual town halls.”
Gideon’s campaign has been criticized for sheltering the candidate from direct interaction with Maine voters. Gideon’s so-called “Suppers with Sara” are highly controlled events that only allow pre-screened participants, and forbid the use of audio or video recording devices. Gideon’s campaign staff has also restricted the use of cell phones during her events.
Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly sequestered Gideon and several other Democratic senate candidates as part of his “windowless basement strategy,” forcing them to stay away from uncontrolled public events and requiring them to spend the majority of their time making campaign donation phone calls.
“Sara Gideon is not ready for prime time, and these fake town halls make that point crystal clear,” continued Kouzounas. “Mainers deserve a candidate who will be responsive and honest with us, not a DC-controlled empty vessel like Sara Gideon. The stakes are too high to send someone to Washington who can’t even be honest about the simplest things, and lying about these phony, online town halls shows clearly that Sara Gideon can’t be trusted.”
Below is an image of Gideon’s screening form for her fake town halls, including a release that requires participants to allow themselves to appear in her ads. The release can be found online here: