The New Hampshire Union-Leader newspaper announced on Wednesday night that it would host a presidential forum in August in direct response to what it called Fox News' attempt to undermine the state's primary elections.
"What Fox is attempting to do, and is actually bragging about doing, is a real threat to the first-in-the-nation primary," publisher Joseph W. McQuaid said. The Union-Leader's forum will air on C-SPAN on Aug. 6, the same night as Fox's event, a debate featuring the top 10 candidates in the GOP field slated to take place in Cleveland.
That same night, Fox will also air a separate forum for candidates who are not ranked in the top 10 according to the polls.
The newspaper's announcement came after 56 state Republicans asked the conservative network and the Republican National Committee to expand the Cleveland debate to include more candidates, saying that relying on early poll results would "arbitrarily elevate candidates who benefit from preliminary notoriety and fundraising."
Fox's Howard Kurtz has argued that using the top 10 contenders in the polls "will help winnow the field." But McQuaid responded on Wednesday by saying some candidates have told the newspaper that the network's event would threaten New Hampshire's role as an early vetting ground for potential presidential contenders.
"That isn't just bad for New Hampshire, it's bad for the presidential selection process by limiting the field to only the best-known few with the biggest bankrolls," McQuaid said. "Why the RNC and, especially, its New Hampshire representative, Steve Duprey, would defend this and be a party to it is baffling."
The Union-Leader's forum, McQuaid added, would not just use polling results as a criteria for entry, but "established campaigns and staffing."