Ron Paul Excluded from Fox Debate

Ron Paul Excluded from Fox Debate Photo I know several of our readers are tired of posts on Ron Paul but Fox News’ announcement that it would exclude candidates not polling in the double digits from their pre-New Hampshire primary debates has set off a firestorm, getting a sharp negative reaction from not only the blogosphere but the New Hampshire GOP.

ABC and Fox News Channel are narrowing the field of presidential candidates invited to debates this weekend just before the New Hampshire primary, in Fox’s case infuriating supporters of Republican Ron Paul. The roster of participants for ABC’s back-to-back, prime-time Republican and Democratic debates Saturday in New Hampshire will be determined after results of Thursday’s Iowa caucus become clear.

Fox, meanwhile, has invited five GOP candidates to a forum with Chris Wallace scheduled for its mobile studio in New Hampshire on Sunday. Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson received invites, leaving Paul and Duncan Hunter on the sidelines. The network said it had limited space in its studio — a souped-up bus — and that it invited candidates who had received double-digit support in recent polls.

In a nationwide poll conducted Dec. 14-20 by The Associated Press and Yahoo, Thompson had the support of 11 percent of GOP voters and Paul was at 3 percent. Paul was tied with Thompson for fifth in New Hampshire in the most recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, each with the support of 4 percent of likely voters. Among all New Hampshire voters, Paul led Thompson 6 percent to 4 percent, but that was within the poll’s margin of error.

Both of the state party leaders are fuming.

This weekend’s presidential debates and forum will not include some nationally-known candidates, and the chairmen of the state Republican and Democratic parties are not happy. Fergus Cullen and Raymond Buckley say the decisions by ABC News, WMUR and, in Cullen’s case, FOX News, are inconsistent with the New Hampshire primary’s tradition of providing a level playing field for all candidates.

ABC News and WMUR-TV (Channel 9) confirmed today that they have established performance-based criteria for Saturday night’s pair of presidential debates. Those rules could leave several relatively well-known candidates on the outside looking in, including Democrats Dennis Kucinich, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.

And Cullen confirmed that FOX News has invited only five presidential candidates to a GOP forum scheduled for Sunday night, leaving out Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter. Cullen said the state GOP is in “ongoing discussions with FOX News about having as many candidates as possible participate” and remains a forum co-sponsor, at least for now.

According to WMUR news director Andrew Vrees and a posting on the ABC News web site, in order to participate in the Saturday night back-to-back GOP and Democratic events at Saint Anselm College, candidates must meet at least one of three criteria:

— Place in the top four in the Iowa caucuses, which will be held on Thursday.

— Poll 5 percent or higher in one of the last four reputable random sample New Hampshire telephone surveys sponsored by an established news organization and conducted and released by 9 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 4.

— Poll 5 percent or higher in one of the last four reputable random sample national telephone surveys sponsored by an established news organization and conducted and released on or before 9 a.m. on Jan. 4.


In a statement, Cullen was critical of all sponsors of the debates and the forum. “Limiting the number of candidates who are invited to participate in debates is not consistent with the tradition of the first-in-the-nation primary,” he said. “The level playing field requires that all serious candidates be given an equal opportunity to participate — not just a selected few determined by the media prior to any votes being cast.” He said that the state GOP “calls upon all media organizations planning pre-primary debates or forums for both parties to include all recognized major candidates in their events.”

It should be noted that Paul is by no means the only well-known figure being excluded. Still, he’s the one drawing the most fuss. Not surprisingly, Fox is getting accused of anti-Paul bias:

Jesse Benton, Paul’s spokesman, said it was a “big mistake” not to include his candidate, especially given Paul’s recent success in fundraising. He said the campaign has been trying to reach Fox News to explain the decision, but its calls had not been returned.

“There very well might be some bias,” Benton said. “Ron brings up some topics that aren’t very popular with Fox News, as in fiscal responsibility and withdrawing from the war in Iraq … that does leave us scratching our heads a little bit about whether it was deliberate. Based on metrics, I don’t see how you can possibly exclude Dr. Paul.”

Josh Marshall agrees: “Paul’s out because he’s not a Fox News Bush-clone. Say whatever you want about the guy, Fox News shouldn’t be able to silence him because they don’t like his views.” Digby adds, “If this doesn’t prove that Fox is just a mouthpiece for the GOP establishment, nothing will. They are excluding Ron Paul from the New Hampshire debate but including Fred Thompson, who is polling lower.”

It’s true that Paul is leading Thompson by an average of 7.0 to 3.4. In New Hampshire. But Thompson leads Paul by an average of 11.8 to 4.3 nationally.

No one’s whining about the exclusion of Duncan Hunter, whose candidacy is taken seriously by virtually no one. But Paul, who is barely registering in national polls, has a much more dedicated base of support and has been quite successful as a fundraiser. And did I mention that his supporters were unusually dedicated? Here’s an excerpt from a protest site some have put up (via the LAT):

“We need to send a message to Fox’s Rupert Murdoch & his fellow Neocon buddies that he is not Musharraf and the U.S. is not Pakistan, yet! Fox News cannot just stifle public opinion, debate and impact a primary election by excluding Ron Paul just because they don’t like his message of freedom and liberty. Cover them up with e-mails and they will just say it was a mistake or miscommunication. Be respectful as all of the e-mail addresses below are just employees trying to keep their jobs with the world’s largest media monopoly.”

While I don’t think he can win, it’s hard to justify keeping him out of the debates at this early stage of the campaign. At some point, though, the networks are justified in narrowing the field to only the most viable candidates. Whatever value protest candidates might have in bringing light to fringe issues and viewpoints, the point of these “debates” is to help voters chose among the available choices.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, 2008 Election, Blogosphere, Media, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Whether they have the right to do it, whether we want them to do it, and whether they are prudent to do it are three distinct subjects. This

    Fox News shouldn’t be able to silence him because they don’t like his views.

    is precisely wrong and it’s wrong in an awful state capitalism kind of way. Fox isn’t choosing to “silence” Dr. Paul. They’re just denying him a podium, denying free publicity. The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech not a right to be heard.

    Unless you take the position that corporations (or at least television networks) are all organs of the state, Fox’s action is that of a private corporation that they’re entitled to.

  2. If you are namely speaking about the exclusion of Ron Paul then you might do well to do some homework on his background and the VNN Forum connection as well as the Stormfront and several other white supremacist and neo-Nazi connections. He has connections monetarily and associate wise that rival a Georgia roadmap. Could that have anything to do with it you think?

  3. Boyd says:

    No, Vicki, it’s because Dr Paul’s supporters, while vocal, are demonstrably few in numbers.

  4. chris lawton says:
  5. Dave says:

    This is the most important factor to take into consideration when thinking about Ron Paul’s chances for winning – polls do not apply. Here’s why:

    1) Who Gets Polled In the Big-Name Polls?
    When GOP polls are taken by Zogby, Rasmussen and others, they only poll those GOP voters who either caucused or voted in the last GOP POTUS primary. But GW Bush ran unopposed in 2004, and only 6% of all GOP voters participated.

    And let’s face it, those that would actually go to a primary to vote for someone running unopposed are the hardcore GW Bush supporters who had to make sure the guy won the primaries. These are not people who would be likely to vote for Ron Paul, but they’re a teeensy tiny percentage of total GOP voters. But when these polls are taken, these are the people that get the phone calls. The fact that as many as 10% of them in Iowa support Ron Paul is amazing.

    2) Ron Paul and Disillusioned Republicans
    I’m one of them, and so are many others. GW Bush ran on Ron Paul’s foreign policy platform back in 1999, which is the year I voted for Bush.

    After watching Bush and his cartel do precisely the opposite of what he said he’d do, then after 911, and the Iraq invasion, I joined the Constitution Party before the last election in 2003 and that’s how I voted.

    The press say that 25% of GOP voters are now against GW Bush’s policies. The press always underreports though. I think the number is much much higher. All the other candidates are touting following the current policies of the Bush administration (with a few minor exceptions). Based on the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with Republicans who are voting for Paul, I believe that more GOP voters support Paul than the media lets on, and those GOP voters aren’t the ones being polled.

    3) Ron Paul and Independents
    They’re switching more and more each day. So many in this country are so sick of the Dems and GOP that they’re declaring their independence. Paul is attracting them in huge numbers because he is so different. But they aren’t polled.

    4) Ron Paul and Disenfranchised Democrats
    I am shocked at how many Democrats I’ve met that have become Paul supporters. They have “held their noses” and reregistered as Republicans just so they can vote for Paul. But they aren’t polled.

    5) Ron Paul and Libertarians
    Recently, the LP asked Paul if he’d run on their ticket and he refused. Why? Because LP candidates don’t participate in debates and get even less attention than Paul gets now. Paul must stay in the mainstream party at least until after February 5th or he’ll really get ignored. But is that going to stop LP voters from voting for him? NO WAY! They’re registering GOP in the states that require declaring fo primaries. And they too, are not polled.

    6) Ron Paul and the Constitution Party
    The CP is now the third-largest party in the United States. Some in it’s own leadership are supporting Ron Paul, the most notable being Chuck Baldwin. The argument rages across the Internet: Should CP members support a candidate that isn’t running on their ticket or should they cut off their noses to spite their faces? The concensus seesm to be: How many chances like this will we ever get? CP Party members seem to agree there won’t be many. As I am a CP member, I am on many forums where I see this daily. And they don’t get polled either.

    7) Ron Paul and Leftist Liberals
    Yes, even members and others support Paul, though on one issue alone. That of course is his foreign policy platform of non-interventionism. But the fact that even these liberals would support Paul speaks volumes about his cross-party support. Think these liberals get polled? NOT!

    8 International Support:
    Paul has more meetup groups, organizations and supporters in other countries than any other candidate. For years, the rest of the world has been dismayed at an ever increasing imperialism of the United States around the world. Paul wants to stop that. Do these supporters have influence? You bet they do! There are millions of new voters in the United States in the form of new naturalized citizens. Those new citizens, proud of their newly-gained status, almost always vote. But they aren’t polled.

    9) Military Support:
    Paul gets the most money from our military than any other candidate in either party. But guess what? They aren’t polled!

    10) How Are the Big-Name Polls Conducted?
    While this may be a minor point (and therefore deserves last place), it IS a factor. All the national and state big name polls are conducted using land line phones. Folks who use only cellular phones aren’t getting polled, even if they did vote in the GOP primary in 2003.

    When you combine all these factors together, it becomes clear that poll numbers mean nothing when it comes to predicting Ron Paul’s viability.

    If your only reason for not supporting Ron Paul is you don’t see him doing well in these polls, I suggest you rethink your position.

  6. grampagravy says:

    By all means, let’s keep the “fringe issues and viewpoints” out on the fringes where they belong. After all, it’s on the fringes that social change first takes root, and our perfectly functioning society certainly doesn’t need any changing. Just look at some of the things that have occurred historically when fringe viewpoints were allowed to get their word out and gain momentum with the public: Abolition, Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights.

  7. independent says:

    Dave Schuler, you make a good point. So, I like the capitalist solutions that have been tossed around by supporters like contacting FoxNews sponsors, selling Fox stock, and simply not watching/supporting that channel.

    Oh yeah, and diminishing the monopolistic power of major media with alternative press such as blogs. Keep up the good work!

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    It will be interesting to see how News Corp. stock does over the next couple of days. It will provide empirical support for Dr. Paul’s support or its lack. Other than polls which are, apparently, insufficiently empirical.

  9. Butch says:

    Hello. I ashamed of faux news and will never tune in and will tell ev1 GO RON GO

  10. just me says:

    Dave do you just go from Ron Paul post to Ron Paul post with that same post? I am pretty sure I read it in another Paul thread yesterday.

    As for the debates, I am not watching them at all anymore-it isn’t that I don’t care, but for the most part they aren’t real debates, they are just giant commercials that don’t cost the candidates anything but time.

    Is it fair to leave Paul out? Probably not, but can Fox do it? I think so just like they are leaving Hunter, Keyes and others out.

  11. SavageView says:

    As I’ve said many times on this site… delicious. Here’s to the death of the Republican Party and to the irrelevance of the thugs who support it.

  12. Tom says:

    To all the Ron Paul supporters upset about not being invited to future debates. It is time for a reality check. It doesn’t matter how much money Dr. Paul has raised. Or how many text messages he can get his supporters to send in after the debates. All polls, yes ALL polls show he can’t even break 10%. It’s not because his views or message hasn’t gotten out. It’s because 95% of Republican voters don’t agree with him or his views. For the large number of Republicans that haven’t decided there is no reason to waste more time listening to Dr. Paul’s ratings. Dr. Paul’s supporters that claim to be Republicans need to make a choice. Find a viable candidate or vote for a democrat. It’s time to stop acting like spoiled children. Deal with reality and move on.

  13. mw says:

    I can’t help but think that this is the best thing that could happen to RP in New Hampshire, and if Fox is intending to hurt RP, then this will actually backfire big-time.

    Work with me here. Instead of being ignored or set up as Rudy’s foil by transparently biased ham-handed Fox moderators in yet another televised political talk-fest that no one will watch…

    … Ron Paul gets a lot of publicity for being unfairly treated by the only organization on the planet that is more annoying than his supporters…

    … Making him the primary topic of conversation and the object of sympathy immediately before the primary in a state that loves underdogs and independents.

    And this is bad for Ron Paul because????

    My sense, is in that state they love to vote for the outsider and have an intense sense of fairness. People in N.H. might vote for RP for no other reason than Fox excluded him.

    The guy that might be hurt is the “other maverick” John McCain, who has traditionally done well in N.H. trading on his independent stature. The best thing that McCain could do is withdraw from the Fox debate in support of RP, and reassert his independent alpha-dog status before RP steals it away. When RP eventually falls by the wayside, perhaps he picks up some of his support.

  14. independent says:

    Find a viable candidate or vote for a democrat.

    This is a ridiculous thing to say before the primaries have started. Until the party nominee is selected, how about you support your favorite Republican candidate, and I’ll support mine.

    When the primaries are over, we can get behind the “viable” Republican. IMO it will be like swallowing a bitter pill and voting for the “lesser of two socialists.”

  15. Tlaloc says:

    Fox isn’t choosing to “silence” Dr. Paul. They’re just denying him a podium, denying free publicity. The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech not a right to be heard.

    You are right here, but what should be done is the debates should be airtime bought by the government and administered fairly including fact check services by neutral third parties. The government can certainly compel the networks to sell the government time since the networks operate on the public airwaves. Cable channels are a different matter.

    Paul should be included, and you’d think the various GOP candidates would want him included since they have had their best success in making themselves look good (to their base) by ridiculing Paul.

  16. Uncle Pinky says:

    it’s hard to justify keeping him out of the debates at this early stage of the campaign

    Sure does feel late, though. I mean we’ve already had eleven-teen thousand debates, useless as they were. Pushing the primaries back so far has resulted in a crescendo-ing frenzy nearly a year out. Folks can’t keep up this level of fervor without heads exploding left and right. Prepare for more bitterness and idiocy ahead.

  17. Dave Schuler says:

    what should be done is the debates should be airtime bought by the government and administered fairly including fact check services by neutral third parties.

    Unfortunately, real government is never quite as impartial, effective, or honest as hypothetical government is. Fox News is cable. The public airwaves have nothing to do with the current discussion unless you’re advocating denying Fox Broadcast access to them as a stick to beat over the head of Fox News.

    That would not be impartial. That would be changing the rules in the middle of the game to benefit specific players, the very definition of partiality.

  18. Bill says:

    There is not enough Ron Paul supporters…..GO FOR IT! The media has too much backing and support for this to be a problem. I’ll bet this will all filter out….with hardly any ripples. MSM is certainly in control.

  19. Marc Snider says:

    Ron Paul is the only candidate of the bunch (inclusive of both parties) who recognizes fully how our present federal government has become a mirror image of the British one that our country’s founding fathers were forced to drive out through military revolution.

    The continued inability of the mainstream media to grasp (or at least to sincerely report) the humongous excesses of our federal government, foreign policy blunders (entanglements in direct contravention of the founders’ warnings, anyone?), and consistent and documented corruption at the highest levels in Washington really makes one wonder about the insidious relationship between the media, multi-national corporations, and our federal government.

    Whatever happened to reporting the political news and not actually dictating it, instead?

    I strongly speculate Ron Paul’s support is far greater across the country than people realize. Consider that the mainstream political polls (from Zogby, Rasmussen, etc.) propagated by the mainstream media (often without a disclaimer about the nature and number of those voters solicited) and used as the rationale for why ‘Ron Paul has no chance’ often consist of only hundreds, or at most a thousand, individual polled voters. Those solicited voters are typically party affiliated ones who have voted in a recent election and who have landline phones. These polls are very out of touch in the methods they use to reach prospective voters and how those voters are chosen.

    At the same time, the mainstream media has been undeniably guilty of removing online, cellphone-based, and other polls which often consist of many thousands, or even tens of thousands of likely voters once Ron Paul has taken an overwhelming lead.

    Consider further that the amount of ‘free’ attention and publicity garnered by Ron Paul absolutely pales when compared to the other top GOP candidates since the mainstream media virtually refuses to cover him and his message (so much for a free and open press dedicated to reporting the news of politics instead of actually dictating it). This in spite of the fact that Paul’s fundraising numbers, and in particular the huge number of average Americans who continue to donate to his campaign, inextricably prove that he has a tremendous amount of support from the public.

    To those (like Tom) who argue that it is defensible for the mainstream media to marginalize Ron Paul at this stage (which they have clearly done, despite his demonstrable public support), I challenge you to list the polls you are referring to – whether reported by Zogby, Rasmussen, or whoever – when you write about how Paul clearly doesn’t matter. And when you reference these polls please be certain to list the objective scientific criteria used by said polls. If you are an unthinking individual who is impressionable enough to look at a mere percentage figure promulgated by those who are obviously opposed to the message of Ron Paul, without actually analyzing how many people and which people were polled before the final result was extrapolated to the ridiculous meaning that the media and you (of Tom’s ilk) claim whereby Paul deserves marginalization, then I can only wish you good luck in reclaiming some power of independent thought (along with some backbone). Step up, if you accept the challenge, by putting your money where your mouth is (just as so many tens – even hundreds – of thousands of Americans have by donating to the Ron Paul Presidential campaign).

    Wait until the New Hampshire Primary just around the corner. It will be interesting to see what the base of power in Washington does once they recognize how truly powerful Paul’s anti-big-and-corrupt-government message has become with the average mainstream American.

    It’s time for a political revolution in this country, and it may well happen despite the best attempts of the mainstream media and Washington power brokers to stop it…

  20. floyd says:

    Whether Ron Paul polls 20% or not, his following is intense!
    More importantly, like Alan Keyes of yore, Ron Paul would keep the other “?debaters?”on their toes, and the audience awake!
    Let the man in!

  21. Fox News ‘fair and balanced’? Not bloody likely!

    Boycott their sponsors, sell off their stock. Drive them out of business.

    Ron Paul has more honor and integrity than all the other candidates.

  22. Ken says:

    Gee how convenient. We ignore Ron Paul, pretend he doesn’t exist in spite of the fact that he has broken all fund raising records, and when the average TV viewer doesn’t know who he is BECAUSE we ignored him, we use that as an excuse to continue to ignore him.

    Sounds like the very definition of a rigged game.


  23. Joe says:

    Fox…They report….You decide.

    Or do they????

  24. Tlaloc says:

    Fox News is cable. The public airwaves have nothing to do with the current discussion unless you’re advocating denying Fox Broadcast access to them as a stick to beat over the head of Fox News.

    I believe I made the point about the difference between airwaves and cable. Here’s why it is pertinent: if you set up a series of official debates that are well moderated and fact checked then the desire for these bread+circus debates will decrease.

  25. Heck, this is the best thing that could happen. I was getting worried that the R3VOLution was going to have to focus on Ron Paul’s campaign. Boring. FOX News has delivered a long needed cause to rally the troops and make another ‘try to ignore this bad boy moment’; several in fact.

    FOX News parent corporation’s stock is falling the past three days. I imagine FOX’s advertisers are growing increasingly tired of the threats, complaints and whatever else hundreds of thousands of computer savvy Ron Paul supporters can dream up to NOT make their day. When will their stock start to likewise be effected has to be on their minds in this very precarious economy. Go ahead and use the Food terrorism act to go after those boycotters. Publicity for Paul and food for the already paranoid.

    An alternate media event for Paul.

    And you don’t think all those Ron Paul supporters are going to let you have your way do you FOX. See you in New Hampshire. Remember Iowa!

  26. John425 says:

    Forget national and NH polling numbers. I suspect Fox left Ron Paul out because he’s a FRIKKEN IDIOT!!!!

  27. floyd says:

    I’m not necessarily a Ron Paul supporter, but it seems to me that it takes more commitment to donate cash than it does to simply answer an inaccurate poll.

  28. Saul Tanner says:

    Call Saint Anselm College, where Fox will hold the forum, and ask how they can allow Fox on their campus. Fox’s decision goes against every ideal the College stands for!

    Saint Anselm College: (603) 641-7000

  29. Dave Skoley says:

    Who’s tired about Ron Paul stories? They better get used to it. Mark my words.

  30. James says:

    Question: how many of us complained at the start of these debates that there were just too many candidates and not enough substance??

    Ok, now we’ll only have 5 candidates at the debate and more time for those with a shot at winning to speak and time isnt wasted on someone who wants to abolish the CIA. Sounds like good news to me.

  31. Glen says:

    I think FOX and the Washington boys are afraid of the Ron Paul effect. Many Americans are sick and tried “We The Government” and “We The People” want our country back. It is past time for major changes in this country and no one else is speeching for us. IMO

  32. Chris says:

    It really is a complete load that the press is limiting who gets seen and who doesn’t. Why pick on Ron Paul? He’s a bonafide candidate. You know who they ought to be keeping out? Rudy Giuliani, that’s who.

  33. fred says:

    Ron Paul wants to cut all foreign aid. Biggest aid recipient is Israel. Jewish interests control media. Therefore, media ignores Paul. That’s all.

  34. ed4ronpaul says:

    Same happened here with the Los Angeles Times, this morning the LAT did not even mention Ron Paul’s name on the frontpage despite of his non-neglectable New Hampshire performance (of 8 percent i think), basically they cut-off at top4 rather than top5. Even in the full article all you see is text and cheerful images of every other candidate. Would this be concidence or attempt to ignore a candidate?