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

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Politics + Government

Rep John Curtis promises to investigate stolen COVID relief money...
Mark Jones

Report: Rep. Curtis named one of most effective members of Congress

A new report out by the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University has Utah Rep. John Curtis listed as one of the most effective members of Congress.
1 day ago
The Bureau of Land Management is investigating the shooting of two wild horses on the Onaqui Mounta...
Mark Jones

Reward offered for information on two wild horses shot earlier this month

The Bureau of Land Management says two wild horses were shot earlier this month on the Onaqui Mountain Herd Management area.
1 day ago
In his first appearance before Congress on Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Chew was grilled by lawmakers ...
Catherine Thorbecke, CNN

TikTok CEO: 5 takeaways from his first appearance before Congress

TikTok CEO Shou Chew was grilled by lawmakers who expressed deep skepticism about his company's attempts to protect US user data.
1 day ago
Gov. Spencer Cox signed two social media bills into law on Thursday afternoon. One bill requires pa...
Lindsay Aerts

Gov. Cox signs two bills taking on social media

Gov. Cox has signed two bills into law which regulate how kids under 18 years of age interact with social media in Utah.
1 day ago
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks about health care and prescription drug costs at the University o...
Jeremy Diamond, CNN

White House to disband Covid-19 response team in May

(CNN) — The White House will disband its coronavirus response team after the Covid-19 public health emergency ends in May, a current and former official said. The team, led most recently by Dr. Ashish Jha, has begun to dwindle in recent months as the administration has started to shift its response to the virus from […]
1 day ago
Former President Donald Trump (left) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are pictured here in a split ima...
Steve Contorno, CNN

With Trump facing legal peril, DeSantis steps out and sharpens attacks

(CNN) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has stylized himself as a political brawler willing to take on all comers, from Disney and the corporate media to high school students wearing masks. But his brewing battle with Donald Trump was for months a one-sided affair. That changed this week when DeSantis for the first time leaned into the burgeoning rivalry in earnest. In […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Cheerful young woman writing an assignment while sitting at desk between two classmates during clas...
BYU EMBA at the Marriott School of Business

Hear it Firsthand: 6 Students Share Their Executive MBA Experience at BYU’s Marriott School of Business

The Executive MBA program at BYU offers great opportunities. Hear experiences straight from students enrolled in the program.
Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a new winter activity? Try skijoring in Bear Lake

Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and gates.
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five common causes of Cervical Cancer – and what you can do to lower your risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get ready for fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy.
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 easy Christmas dinner ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy.
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. 
Burgess Owens confirms he will not attend tonight’s debate