New Level of Crazy in Ori Feibush vs. Kenyatta Johnson

Feibush staged a fake debate, then cried foul when Johnson didn't show.


The already bizarre Ori Feibush vs. Kenyatta Johnson City Council contest took on a truly Kafkaesque quality Monday night, when Feibush hosted a fake debate that was attended neither by his opponent, or the moderator, and then blasted Johnson on social media for chickening out.


The background. Feibush and Johnson have already met for four debates. Feibush, the challenger, was hoping for a fifth. He wanted one so much that he scheduled the event, booked a venue, found a moderator and promoted the debate for weeks.

The only problem was that Johnson’s camp had already said no to the debate a month ago. Indeed, Feibush’s campaign acknowledges as much.

“We wanted to give Councilman Johnson every opportunity to show up,” says Daren Berringer, the media consultant for the Feibush campaign. “We really had no idea if he was going to.”

According to Johnson’s team, that’s rubbish. “Ori knew that there would not be a fifth debate a month ago,” says Johnson spokesman Mark Nevins. “He deliberately and dishonestly ignored that fact and schemed to fabricate an event for the sole purpose of trying to make himself look good and Kenyatta look bad.”

Online, the “debate” certainly had the semblance of a real, locked-in affair. Feibush began promoting “Councilmania IV” with a Facebook group weeks ago (we’re not sure it was Councilmania IV, as this would have been the fifth debate, but that’s what Feibush called it). There was a venue (Elmwood Skating Rink), a moderator (Matt Katz of WNYC) and a space to RSVP. Even a sponsor for the debate was listed: the Southwest Globe Times.

Here’s where things get odder still. According to the editor and publisher, Ted Behr, the paper was a partner in helping to pull together the debate, but its name was used under false pretenses. “Ori’s campaign put us down as sponsor, and that was not correct,” says Behr. “They were the sponsors of it.”

Berringer admits the Feibush campaign proposed the debate. But he also suggested the debate was principally organized by the Globe Times, which supposedly reached out to Katz, the moderator (who didn’t go to the debate, only after finding out hours prior to the debate that Johnson wasn’t participating). Berringer also says the paper was dogging Johnson, trying to get him to particpate, but that Johnson “never returned their phone calls.”

Wrong again, says Behr. “Kenyatta’s people told me pretty clearly that they’d indicated to Feibush several weeks ago that they wouldn’t be available. And [Ori] went ahead and scheduled it.”