ABC News will host an hour-long special on health care reform in the U.S. next Wednesday from the White House East Room -- a move that ABC is defending but critics are calling a surrender to the Obama administration's effort to control the debate.
The prime time special -- called "Questions for the President: Prescription for America" by ABC News -- will be a nationally televised event during which President Obama will answer questions presented by audience members selected by ABC News.
Participants will present a broad range of "divergent opinions in this historic debate," according to the press release announcing the event. Viewers will also be able to submit questions via ABCNews.com.
But critics of Obama's health care reform are asking that they be allowed to voice their side of the national debate.
"In the absence of opposition, I am concerned this event will become a glorified infomercial to promote the Democrat agenda. If that is the case, this prime time infomercial should be paid for out of the DNC coffers. President Obama does not hold a monopoly on health care reform ideas or on free airtime," Ken McKay, Chief of Staff for the Republican National Committee, wrote in a letter to ABC News President David Westin.
"The president has stated time and time again that he wants a bipartisan debate. Therefore, the Republican Party should be included in this prime time event," McKay wrote.
ABC News Senior Vice President Kerry Smith returned volley to McKay in her own letter released Tuesday. She said any viewer who watches will be sure to find the network's coverage is "informative, fair and civil."