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Without Gore, NBC won’t allow Bush ‘Press’ time

Peacock wants 'a debate, not an appearance by one candidate'

Debate or no debate, George W. Bush plans to knock on the Peacock’s door next week to appear on “Meet the Press.” If there’s no Al Gore, though, host Tim Russert won’t be letting Bush in.

And so goes the latest twist in the great presidential debate impasse of 2000, with NBC saying Wednesday it will only proceed with Bush’s plan for a debate on Russert’s Sept. 12 show if Gore appears, too.

” ‘Meet the Press’ offered a debate, not an appearance by one candidate,” NBC spokeswoman Barbara Levin said.

Gore, however, continues to hold steady in his position that he would accept his Republican opponent’s unusual debate invitation only if Bush first agrees to participate in three 90-minute, nationally televised debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Commission executive director Janet Brown and the networks — which have all carried debates live in the past — had spent two years negotiating workable dates. The commission believes its debates reach the most viewers.

So far, Bush has agreed to the commission’s Oct. 17 debate only, not to the Oct. 3 and 11 events. He’s meanwhile shot back at Gore with invitations to debate on “Meet the Press” and on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

CNN has not said whether it would allow Bush to appear on the Oct. 3 show of “Larry King Live” if Gore is not likewise in attendance.

One network industry rep said the networks are “apoplectic” over the debates, since they have rearranged their fall schedules to accommodate the commission’s roster.

“They (the networks) don’t want to look like the bad guy,” the rep said. “I don’t know how they resolve this thing now. It’s a no-win situation.”

And since the non-partisan commission has not called off the Oct. 3 and Oct. 11 debates, the networks can’t completely clear their schedules to make room for other programming.

The debate commission has urged Bush to meet with them in the next week. Thus far, he has declined. Gore already has agreed to such a meeting.

Both candidates appeared on morning news shows Wednesday to plug their positions.

“I’ve laid out what I am going to do,” Bush said on NBC’s “Today.”

Bush said he’s showing up in Washington, D.C., Tuesday for the “Meet the Press” debate, and that he hopes Gore does the same.

“I’m not going to play games to try to substitute a talkshow for the national bipartisan commission debates,” Gore said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

CNN has not yet made a decision about whether or not Bush will get time on “Larry King” if Gore doesn’t agree to join him. “We are not discussing hypotheticals,” said a CNN spokeswoman. “We are planning to air a debate that night.”

If the NBC and CNN debates proposed by Bush actually proceeded, both ABC and CBS have said they would not air another network’s programs. Fox News Channel, meanwhile, said it would carry such events, even though on a rival network.

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