MANCHESTER — Donald Trump immediately took credit for getting the New Hampshire Union Leader dropped from an upcoming Republican debate being produced in partnership with ABC News, drawing condemnation from the paper’s publisher.
“I am pleased to announce that I had the Union Leader removed from the upcoming debate,” Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon, minutes after the newspaper was told by an ABC News executive they were going to “split ways.”
The debate, scheduled for Feb. 6 from the campus of St. Anselm College, is the only time Republicans will meet head-to-head in the Granite State.
ABC News’ decision to drop the Union Leader from the Republican debate follows a similar incident before their Democratic debate last month. WMUR-TV was not allowed to participate after the Democratic National Committee had them removed due to an ongoing labor dispute with fewer than a dozen members of a union at the station based in Manchester.
In a statement, Union Leader Publisher Joseph W. McQuaid blasted ABC’s decision.
“We are amused by ABC News apparently just discovering that we endorse candidates and write editorials. We have been doing both for many years and it has never been a problem with ABC or other debate sponsors,” McQuaid said.
“We consider ABC’s actions to be spineless. Between bowing to the DNC and Trump, ABC is more concerned about appeasing the parties and candidates than informing voters. The Union Leader will continue to serve Granite Staters by being a reliable source of information about where candidates stand.”
In an email to McQuaid, ABC News Vice President Robin Sproul said: “We respect and admire the Union Leader and its storied role in New Hampshire politics. It’s why we always reach out to you guys about debates, every cycle.”
Sproul said the network wanted all candidates to feel that the partners are “not biased in favor of or against anyone on the debate stage.”
“We felt that the current war of words with Trump, coupled with the endorsement already made, put us in a difficult position — there was just too much distraction from what we need to accomplish in the debate,” Sproul said.
WMUR-TV and the Independent Journal Review, a news website, will remain partners in the debate, though their role has not been defined. ABC has not released a list of candidates who will be invited to take part.
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