ABC News has dropped a New Hampshire newspaper that was going to co-sponsor an upcoming GOP debate, and Donald Trump is taking credit for the change.
“I am pleased to announce that I had the Union Leader removed,” Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon, shortly after ABC confirmed that it had “parted ways” with the Union Leader for the February 6 event.
The debate was always supposed to be led by ABC, and it will go on as planned. But Trump’s claim highlights the complicated dynamic between the debate hosts and the debaters themselves.
The Union Leader’s editorial page has been sharply critical of Trump for months, and Trump has returned fire. Furthermore, the newspaper has endorsed Chris Christie in the GOP primary, which Trump pointed out on Sunday.
“If their highly unethical behavior, including begging me for ads, isn’t questionable enough, they have endorsed a candidate who can’t win,” he said in a series of tweets.
“This is really unfair and a conflict for all the other candidates,” Trump tweeted. “I said it should not be allowed and ABC agreed.”
ABC had no comment on Trump’s claims. But a network source acknowledged — before Trump’s tweet storm started — that the Union Leader had been particularly tough on one candidate in particular, and that candidate is Trump.
One sample editorial from last month: “Trump just can’t believe that anyone would reject his insulting, sophomoric campaign. We declined to endorse him because he is unqualified and unsuited for the job he seeks.”
Also last month, Trump lambasted Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid as a “low life.” McQuaid called the comments “typical Trump” and pointed out that the candidate had called him a “fantastic man” earlier in the year.
McQuaid responded to ABC’s decision in a statement on Sunday afternoon.
“We are amused by ABC apparently just discovering that we write editorials and endorse candidates,” he said. “We have been doing both for decades and it hasn’t been an issue for ABC or anyone else.”
McQuaid seemed to give credence to Trump’s claim of credit; the publisher accused ABC of being “more concerned about appeasing the parties and candidates than informing voters.”
“That looks pretty spineless,” he added.
The Union Leader is a daily paper that has been a part of New Hampshire history for 150 years. It has sponsored many primary debates over the years, including ABC’s Democratic debate in the state last month.
But the partnership between ABC and the Union Leader was on shaky ground even before that debate, unrelated to Trump’s complaints about the paper, according to the network source.
The other co-sponsors of ABC’s February 6 debate remain in the mix. They are WMUR, a local television station, and Independent Journal, a right-leaning news site.