Burgess Owens confirms he will not attend tonight’s debate

Oct 12, 2022, 12:25 PM | Updated: 2:33 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As tonight’s debate for Utah’s Fourth Congressional District seat draws near, Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, will not attend.

Owens released a video Wednesday afternoon, addressing his decision not to debate.

Why Owens won’t debate

In the video, Owens explained his decision to not participate is because of The Salt Lake Tribune Executive Editor Lauren Gustus’ role as moderator.

Owens referenced an incident last year, where the Salt Lake Tribune published a cartoon comparing him to the Ku Klux Klan.

Owens went on the explain that because of the Utah Debate Commission’s refusal to remove Gustus as moderator for the debate, he will not participate.

“I will not, in good conscience, have anything to do with the racist Salt Lake Tribune and will therefore not participate in this debate,” Owens said in a video statement.


Owens went on to address one of his opponents, Darlene McDonald. He invited McDonald’s to join him in town hall meetings to discuss their political views with constituents on Oct. 22 and Oct. 29.

The debate commission’s statement

The Utah Debate comission is releasing a statement after Owens confirmed he will not participate.

The Utah Debate Commission is disappointed to hear that Rep. Burgess Owens will not participate in tonight’s debate.

The Utah Debate Commission stands behind the choice of moderator for tonight’s debate between candidates running for the 4th Congressional District.  We believe the moderator’s questions will be fair and professional, representing the Utah Debate Commission in an independent, non-partisan matter.   

We welcome Rep. Owens to join us on stage this evening for a meaningful dialogue which will inform voters in Utah’s 4th Congressional District.

The commission says they stand behind tonight’s moderator and believe she will be fair and professional.

Support from Lee, Stewart, Curtis

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, along with Congressmen Chris Stewart, R-Utah, and John Curtis, R-Utah, also released a statement supporting Owens’ decision. 


The statement from the delegates says the decision to allow The Salt Lake Tribune Executive Editor to moderate tonight’s debate is not the Utah way.

They say they “don’t believe it to be in the spirit of a good debate for our friend and colleague to be subjected to questions from the person who approved the image.”

When the cartoon was published a year and a half ago, all of Utah’s Delegation issued a joint statement call the cartoon “beyond the pale.”

Sen. Mitt Romney and Congressman Blake Moore signed onto that statement, however, their names were not on today’s statement.

Before backing out

Before releasing his video, and during a tour of a water purification facility on Wednesday, Owens told KSL NewsRadio’s Lindsay Aerts “we’ll find out” when asked if he’d participate in the debate.


Owens, nor his campaign, answered multiple requests made via phone, text, and email from KSL NewsRadio for comment or interview on his appearance before today’s comment to Aerts.

On Tuesday, the Utah Debate Commission sent out a press release that said Owens “refuses to commit to showing up at the debate.”

The commission continued its statement, calling Owens’ behavior cowardly and chastising him for a lack of accountability to his constituents. Owens did not attend the primary election debate against Jake Hunsaker earlier this year either.

The debate will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at the University of Utah.

Related: Utah debates: How Utah’s Fourth Congressional District opponents compare on the issues

Today’s Top Stories

Politics + Government

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries becomes the first Black lawmaker to lead a political party in the U.S. Congres...
Daniella Diaz

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to succeed Pelosi, the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress

At 52, Jeffries represents a generational change from the current House Democratic leaders, who are three decades older than him.
4 days ago
The US Senate has passed a bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriage. It now returns to the...
Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett

Senate passes bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriage in landmark vote

The bill does not set a national requirement that all states must legalize same-sex marriage. Instead, it requires states to recognize another state's legal marriage.
5 days ago
Former Vice President Mike Pence is seen here with audience members after appearing at at CNN town ...
Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Pence says Trump was ‘wrong’ for dinner with Holocaust denier

Former Vice President Mike Pence says former President Donald Trump was wrong for having dinner with a Holocaust denier and should apologize for it.
5 days ago
A ballot drop box is pictured. Those wanting to vote in the utah primary election can still vote in...
Sydnee Gonzalez

Analysis shows ‘sizable’ gap in Salt Lake’s west side/east side voter turnout

Voters on Salt Lake City's west side turned out for the 2022 midterms at a much lower rate than their east-side counterparts.
11 days ago
The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for the Internal Revenue Service to release former Pre...
Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter

Supreme Court clears way for House to get Trump’s taxes

The court's move is a loss for Trump, who has sought to shield the release of his tax returns and is currently under multiple investigations.
12 days ago
The Biden administration is again extending the pause on federal student loan payments....
Arlette Saenz and Katie Lobosco, CNN

Biden extends student loan repayment freeze as program remains in court

The latest extension comes as the Biden administration's student loan forgiveness program remains tied up in the courts.
12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Burgess Owens confirms he will not attend tonight’s debate