ABC cuts ties with New Hampshire paper ahead of debate; Trump takes credit


ABC News has cut its partnership with the New Hampshire Union Leader ahead of the network’s Republican primary debate next month – a move Donald Trump swiftly claimed credit for, tweeting that he had the newspaper "removed." 

Network spokeswoman Julie Townsend confirmed the decision to, but said the Union Leader only ever had a "minor" role to play in the debate.

"There were no plans for them to be on stage or ask a question so really this decision has no impact on the content or editorial content of the debate," Townsend said. 

The decision, first reported by Politico coincides with an increasingly nasty and public feud between Trump and the New Hampshire newspaper. 

The Union Leader reported Sunday that ABC News Vice President Robin Sproul wrote to publisher Joseph McQuaid, saying the network wanted all candidates at the Feb. 6 debate in Manchester, N.H., to feel the event partners are “not biased in favor of or against anyone on the debate stage.”

The New Hampshire paper had sparked controversy with a series of editorials in which it sharply attacked Trump, comparing him to “Biff” – the main antagonist in the “Back to the Future” franchise. Publisher Joseph McQuaid penned a particularly scathing editorial on Dec. 27.

“Trump has shown himself to be a crude blowhard with no clear political philosophy and no deeper understanding of the important and serious role of President of the United States than one of the goons he lets rough up protesters in his crowds,” McQuaid wrote.

The editorial triggered a fiery response from Trump who told supporters at a New Hampshire rally that the paper was "a very dishonest newspaper, it's also a failing newspaper” and called McQuaid a “loser.”

A source at ABC News told that the network had not had a good partnership with the Union Leader, and that it was at best a strained relationship. The source also said the Union Leader's attacks on Trump had been a factor in ABC's decision.

The paper had also endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, calling him a candidate with the “range and type of experience the nation desperately needs.”

In a statement, McQuaid slammed ABC’s decision to end the debate partnership, calling it “spineless.”

"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," McQuaid said.

WMUR, a local TV station, and Independent Journal, a conservative website, remain as co-sponsors.'s Adam Shaw contributed to this report.