Presidential hopeful John Edwards' campaign would neither confirm nor deny on Friday a University of North Carolina professor's claim that Edwards' staffers threatened to cut student groups' access to the candidate over a video report that criticized the location of his campaign headquarters.
The two-and-a-half-minute student video report, which features a student campaign volunteer and a student newspaper columnist, raised questions about the location of Edwards' headquarters in an affluent part of Chapel Hill, N.C.
“While most presidential campaign hopefuls this election have set up shop in Washington, D.C., John Edwards has placed his campaign headquarters right here" in the Southern Village neighborhood of Chapel Hill, UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Carla Babb reports in the video.
Nation Hahn, a student volunteer on the campaign and a UNC senior, said the location of Edwards' headquarters shows that the former senator is a candidate for the average person, unlike other campaigns based in Washington.
"He's not a candidate who is tied to Washington, D.C., but a candidate for everyone outside of Washington, D.C.," Hahn said.
But James Dillard, a UNC senior and a columnist for the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, said the location conflicts with the campaign's slogan of uniting rich and poor Americans.
"To pick that place as your campaign center, when you’re going to be the man who advocates on behalf the poor, I just think, why not turn the media’s attention to somewhere where there are huge, huge problems?” Dillard said.
C.A. Tuggle, a UNC journalism professor who oversees the student-run TV program, said campaign staffers contacted him to complain about the report after it was posted to YouTube as part of a contest for MTV. The video report is scheduled to air on UNC's Carolina Week TV program on Monday.
He told the local News & Observer newspaper that two top Edwards staffers threatened to cut off student reporters' access to Edwards if the piece aired.
"I can't imagine the Edwards campaign spending this much time and this much effort on something that I see would have been very inconsequential," Tuggle said.
On Friday, Tuggle defended the student reporter, Carla Babb, who he said changed the direction of the story after researching and interviewing.
"Perhaps your first inclination of how you're going to put the story together is not the way it turns out," Tuggle said. "The focus of the piece did change as we went along, but that is standard practice in journalism."
The Edwards campaign would not comment on the student's report or other questions about Tuggle's claims.
"This is silly," Colleen Murray, a campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement. "We love all reporters, the problem is the feeling isn't always mutual."