Ron Paul ??? excluded from Fox debate – UPDATED

[See my concluding comment at the bottom and my new article 'Ron Paul: Fair and Balanced'.]

One of the hazards of instant mass communication is that incorrect stories can get distributed immediately. A particular hazard during holiday vacations. [*And when those who know the full story aren't talking*]

There is NO NH “DEBATE” on January 6th. That event was canceled three weeks ago. Ron Paul has, so far, been excluded from an “event” planned by Fox News.

Jason George of the Baltimore Sun reports at 6:02pm ET 12/30/07:

Fergus Cullen, chairman of the New Hampshire State Republican Committee, confirmed Sunday evening to the Tribune that, yes, there will be a televised Fox News presidential candidate forum on Jan. 6, and yes, Rep. Ron Paul was not invited when the other candidates were a week or so ago.
“My understanding is that five candidates to that point had been offered spots but the event is still coming together,” Cullen said.
The candidates invited to the forum/debate – whatever you want to call it – will be Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. John McCain, Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. Fred Thompson.
Cullen said the event, which is set to take place two days before the New Hampshire primary, will be held in the afternoon or evening at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, N.H. When asked if Fox News, which is co-sponsoring the debate with the NH party, planned to invite Paul later, Cullen said he didn't know.
“It's really premature. Just the other day candidates started to accept invitations.”

The Paul campaign is still in the dark and Fox News is not talking:

On the evening of December 28, Jared Chicoine and Jordan Brown of our New Hampshire campaign staff met in person with Fergus Cullen the New Hampshire GOP chairman to discuss whether or not Dr. Paul would be invited to participate in the forum.  Mr. Cullen confirmed there will be an event on January 6, but he could not confirm whether or not Dr. Paul would be invited. We also learned the event would not be a debate with an audience, but instead would be a forum in a closed studio with the candidates questioned only by Chris Wallace of Fox News.

 [emphasis added]

Ron WILL participate in the January 5th ABC/WMUR GOP debate in New Hampshire.

================= Original Report & Updates =============
So, what happened?

Months ago, NH GOP chairman Fergus Cullen had been in touch with FoxNews about a possible forum on January 6th. He had even contacted all the GOP candidates to see whether they were available. However, plans for the ABC debate were finalized with all candidates early in December and Cullen “threw in the towel.” See “OUTFOXED” in the NH Union Leader of December 16th.

At that time, Cullen had not received a response from Ron Paul, who had committed to a conflicting luncheon at the NH Liberty Forum at the same time.

Skip ahead to December 27th, when the Union Leader reported that all candidates had agreed to the ABC/WMUR debate and reporter Garry Rayno added a confusing paragraph about Giuliani finally agreeing to the (canceled) January 6th forum, which had already been converted into a simple state GOP brunch.

Due to the timing of this article, there was no way to confirm who will or won't attend the brunch, but it is not a broadcast debate and has nothing to do with FoxNews. Nevertheless, a blog in Washington picked up the story, scrambled it and their “BHDC Staff” reported a list of the candidates who would be attending, which did not include Ron Paul (he hadn't officially confirmed, due to the conflict).

That story was picked up by the AP Newswire, which added some information that it had from a month earlier about the format being discussed.

Finally, the AP article was picked up by Lew Rockwell and passed along to DailyPaul.com, with all the errors intact. Of course, a firestorm ensued on all the Ron Paul nets before the information could be verified. Immediately, thousands of messages went to FoxNews and the NH GOP protesting the exclusion.

Unfortunately, the Ron Paul campaign didn't sort out the facts before sending out a news release blasting Fox for their “outrageous” conduct, even if they did note that the information had not been confirmed. From there, the report spread into dozens of blogs and news commentaries.

An unfortunate false alarm. Lesson: Fast news is sometimes “bad” news. Faux News is worthy of criticism for what they have done, not for what they haven't done. Look before you leap.

Update1: Not all MSM is bad. For some favorable coverage of Ron Paul, see my “Media Ears” articles: ABC, Newsweek, PBS & Cable 47

Update2: The New Hampshire GOP website makes no mention of any events on January 6th, but it does promote the NH Liberty Forum scheduled for January 5th, where Ron Paul will be speaking. I'm informed that the campaign was working with Forum sponsors and Cullen to accommodate any possible NHGOP event.
Fox News does mention the January 5th ABC debate on their schedule, but nothing in New Hampshire on January 6th.
There does appear to be some residual confusion about the GOPNH brunch on the 6th, which may occur, where some candidates may attend, and which Fox may cover as a news item, but it certainly isn't a live, broadcast debate or forum. [See Update7] 

Update3: If you believe there is an error in my report, please provide a link. The story from the Big Head DC blog, linked in the article, may be a satirical fabrication intended to distress Paul supporters, which is their inclination. As for St. Anselm College, their schedule show no events whatever on January 6th.

Update4: This gets more interesting. The source for the original story was the Big Head DC blog, run by one Rob Capriccioso. At first, I thought he had just made an innocent error, but Katrina Morgan, claiming to be his wife [Capriccioso says he doesn't know her] says he is “working on a cutting-edge blog war strategy.

“”Blog wars were so lame before my husband came around. It was just people making fun of each other or posting unflattering pictures. BORING! But then my husband figured something out: posting full names and job names really scared people and can potentially disrupt their lives. So exciting!

Then, I discovered that Capriccioso was responsible for “outing” Trent Lott, apparently with fabricated emails from a purported homosexual lover. Did he decide to spoof the entire Ron Paul story, just to “disrupt the lives” of Ron Paul supporters? [See: Final+6 Footnote]

Update5: WorldNetDaily has confirmed the accuracy of this report.  In a review of other candidate websites and news schedules, no such event exists.

Update6: Further evidence of Fox News’ apparent innocence (this time) is their sponsorship of the January 10th GOP Debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It would make no sense to exclude Ron Paul on January 6th, but to reportedly include him in a debate four days later.

This report does not conflict with the RP press release, in which Kent Snyder states that they are “continuing to make inquiries” to determine why Paul was “apparently excluded.” I totally agree with his reasons why Paul should be included in all broadcast debates.

Thanks to Mondoreb at Death by 1000 Papercuts for the compliment and some cute stock photos. This report, he writes,

… is as accurate as we have been able to verify at this point in time. It may prove to contain errors, but we couldn't find any, based on what DBKP knows at this moment.

Apologies to Chris Brunner of Lew Rockwell for incorrectly identifying him as the author of the WorldNetDaily post, which is not attributed. Thanks to Jane Aitken, a huge RP booster in New Hampshire, who will be following up with the NHGOP.

Update7: NHGOP Press Secretary Barney Keller, in transit to New York City on his cell phone, says all candidates have been invited to attend and “say a few words” at the noon Sunday “Presidential Brunch” event, which may be covered by C-Span. Independent of that event, says Keller, Fox News has arranged for the use of a television studio at St. Anselm College for possible interviews with presidential candidates that evening. There will be no public audience and, to the best of his knowledge, all candidates have been invited. That session is totally under the control of Fox News, he says, which may be taped or done as a live broadcast. Awaiting return call from Fox VP John Moody. [12/30/07 02:30 pm PT]

FINAL UPDATE: See my comments below [12/30/07 8:00pm PT] and my new article on the topic.

Final+1: NHGOP Chairman Fergus Cullen has finally issued a rather artfully worded statement saying:

“The level playing field requires that all candidates be given an equal opportunity to participate – not just a select few determined by the media prior to any votes being cast.”

Final+2: The Associated Press now reports that Fox won't be using the studios at St. Anselm College, but rather a “souped-up bus” with limited space. According to AP, Fox only “invited candidates who had received double-digit support in recent polls,” presumably its own.

Final+3: ABC News has at least released its criteria for including candidates in the day-previous January 5th debates, where Paul appears to qualify [Fundraising is not one of them].

Final+4: After a week of virtual silence and artful dodging, NHGOP Chairman Fergus Cullen has released a clear statement:

The New Hampshire Republican Party believes Congressmen Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter should be included in the FOX forum on Sunday evening.  Our mutual efforts to resolve this difference have failed.
While we understand that FOX News continues to move forward it is with regret, the New Hampshire Republican Party hereby withdraws as a partner in this forum.

Fox responded with one sentence:

We look forward to presenting a substantive forum which will serve as the first program of its kind this election season

Final+5: Manchester, NH station MCAM-TV will be broadcasting a live Ron Paul one-hour townhall meeting concurrent with the Fox broadcast, simulcast on the web.

Final+6: Rob Capriccioso. denies that Katrina Morgan is any relation and her blog entry has been deleted from the WordPress site.


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