Breaking the Mold: Roger Simon and The Epoch Times Craft New Debate Structure to Premiere July 12th in Nashville

Live from Music Row, Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist and The Epoch Times’ Editor-at-Large Roger Simon to discuss the structure of the upcoming debate, crafted by The Epoch Times and scheduled to take place July 12th in downtown Nashville.

Leahy: We welcome back to our microphones good friend, all-star panelist, my former boss at PJTV, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, author, novelist, senior editor, senior consultant, and truthing editor at The Epoch Times, Mr. Roger Simon. Good morning, Roger.

Simon: Good morning.

Leahy: Big news: A big, and, I think groundbreaking debate that The Epoch Times, that you’re associated with as a senior editor, is putting together here in Nashville on July 12, I believe it is.

Simon: July 12 at the Grand Lodge downtown, which is quite a venue if you’ve never been there. The Grand Lodge of Tennessee is probably half the size of Brooklyn. It’s quite amazing.

Leahy: It’s a very historic, historic building as well, downtown Nashville.

Simon: And what we’re going to be doing is a pilot, really, in a sense, for a wholly different kind of debate.

Leahy: And by the way, if you’ve watched debates, they really turn out to be little more than joint press conferences at times.

Simon: That’s the good ones. The bad ones are the ones like Chris Wallace interrupting Trump and not allowing him to talk about the Hunter Biden laptop, which of course changed the whole fabric of the last election.

We don’t want anything like that. No reporters will be answering questions. Michael Patrick will not be asking questions, and will be there as a moderator and will not give his opinion on anything.

Leahy: By the way, the bait is for the candidates in the 5th Congressional District in Tennessee in the GOP primary on August 4th, six weeks from today.

And the new district contains the lower third, the southern third of Davidson County, the eastern half of Wilson County, the eastern half of Williamson County, rather the western half of Wilson, and all of Marshall, Lewis, and Maury counties.

Simon: So it’s a big district and it’s a new district.

Leahy: Who’s going to be there?

Simon: Now, the important part of this debate, though, is that reporters will not be asking questions – no Chris Wallaces.

Instead, they’re going to be domain experts, subject matter experts that The Epoch Times is bringing in from across the country, like a Gordon Chang will be asking the questions on foreign policy.

Leahy: He’s a very sharp guy. Knows all about China.

Simon: As much as anybody. Now we’re trying to elevate the whole thing to make it more informative to the voter. Also working with us, very importantly in this, Nashville Republican Women and the Middle Tennessee Young Republicans.

Tickets are going to be available as of, I guess, later today or tomorrow on Eventbrite. So you can search the Tennessee 5th District.

Leahy: Go to

Simon: And you can buy tickets through the National Republican Women, through the Young Republicans, and eventually – I think today, later today, through The Epoch Times.

And there will be tickets available at various price ranges, including an expensive ticket – 70 tickets at $100 each, which will include a reception with the National Republican Women for these distinguished guests like Gordon Chang.

And there also will be free tickets you can get out of Eventbrite. It’s a very big auditorium and The Epoch Times will be streaming this live on video as far as the United Kingdom.

Leahy: Wow. Yeah.

Simon: So this is, for us, a big deal because we’re trying to make debates in the United States of America intelligent for the voter.

Leahy: Well, that’s a very good thing, a very good goal to work for. It sounds like you’re well on your way. Of course. Also, another subject matter expert [attending the debate], a good friend of ours from the Heritage Foundation, an expert on election integrity, Hans von Spakovsky, who is a graduate of Vanderbilt Law School.

Simon: He is indeed. And he’s going to be asking the election integrity questions, which I think are going to be very important to voters because there’s a lot of discontent about our elections.

Leahy: And we’ll see if we can make it available on The Tennessee Star. We’ll put it through a link where you can go and buy the tickets. So there are free tickets that you can get, right?

Simon: Yes, you can get free tickets, or you can get the more expensive seats and you’ll sit down closer. And if you buy the most expensive, you get to go to a reception after the debate, which will be held right there at the Lodge.

Leahy: So the reception would be kind of cool.

Simon: Yeah, it should be, because there’ll be a lot of interesting folks to talk to.

Leahy: And the thing I like about this, Roger, is most debates are a little more than joint press conferences. Right? And then when you’ve got the bad-journalist-moderator Chris Wallace, they devolve into, I don’t know, shouting matches that really generate a lot of heat, but not a lot of light.

Simon: Also, there was the famous Candy Crowley incident when she berated Romney’s questions about Benghazi. It’s a history of this stuff going on.

Leahy: And this debate will not be like that.

Simon: If it is, I’ll be partly to blame.

Leahy: I think this will be a really great event and really groundbreaking in American political discourse. Now let me say that there are nine qualified candidates in this race, and I’ll rattle them off right now.

The nine qualified candidates are former Speaker of the House here in Tennessee, Beth Harwell; mayor of Maury County, Andy Ogles; retired Brigadier General from the Tennessee National Guard, Kurt Winstead; retired healthcare executive and a former healthcare executive, retired Black Hawk pilot and major with 101st Airborne, Jeff Beierlein; Tres Wittum, Stuart Parks, Tim Lee, Natisha Brooks, and Geni Batchelor.

Those are the nine qualified candidates whose names will appear on the August 4th GOP primary ballot. Roger, how many of these candidates will be invited to this event and why will not all of them be invited?

Simon: The answer to your second question – why? – is, quite simply, if you’ve been listening to what Michael I just been talking about, we couldn’t possibly have this kind of substantive debate with that many people.

So we are going to have to choose four or five of the top candidates. And that’s it, unfortunately. I wish in a way we could do that, but we would have a four-hour debate, and I think most people would be asleep by then.

Listen to the interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Roger Simon” by Roger Simon. Background Photo “Nashville Republican Women Podium” by Nashville Republican Women. 















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