‘Still Scratching My Head’: CNN Announces GOP Debate At St. Anselm College Without Clearing It With School Or Party, Officials Say

“The CNN thing came out and everybody’s like, ‘What the heck?’”
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 25: The main stage is seen prior to the start of the CNN GOP Presidential Debate at the University of Houston's Moores School of Music Opera House on February 25, 2016 in Houston, Texas.This is the last Republican debate before the Super Tuesday primaries on March 1
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

CNN announced Thursday that it will host two GOP presidential debates in January, with one being held at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, but officials at St. Anselm and the New Hampshire Republican Party had no idea about CNN’s plans. 

Hours after the close of the fourth Republican debate in Alabama, the network announced it will host debates in Iowa and New Hampshire days before the states’ caucuses and primary. Neil Levesque — the executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and Political Library at Saint Anselm — said the university was “surprised” by CNN’s announcement, seeing how nothing had been planned between the university, the Republican Party, and the legacy media outlet. 

“We were surprised to be included on a press release by a network about a debate which we had not planned or booked,” Levesque said in a post on X. “Such a debate announcement breached the RNC debate rules. We have and will continue to work with the Republican Party on debates.”

Chris Ager, chairman of New Hampshire’s Republican Party, was also flabbergasted. 

“The CNN thing came out and everybody’s like, ‘What the heck?’” Ager told The New York Times. “I’m still scratching my head. And I still haven’t been contacted by CNN at all.”

“For a big, professional organization like that, putting out a location on this date and the location doesn’t know — something’s not quite right,” he added.


CNN couldn’t speak to the apparent miscommunication, according to a spokesperson, who said the network is “moving forward with our plans to host a debate in New Hampshire on Jan. 21,” which is just two days before the New Hampshire primary. 

Both the Republican Party and St. Anselm College have already approved a GOP debate for January 18 hosted by ABC News. Ager said the state GOP had been working with ABC “for months” on the debate and even did a “run-through” of the facility that will be used for the event at St. Anselm. 

CNN is also planning to host a Republican debate in Iowa on January 10, five days before the Iowa caucuses, but that debate has also not yet been sanctioned by the Republican Party. Current RNC rules dictate that candidates who attend an unsanctioned debate will be barred from attending future Republican gatherings, but the party’s debate committee was expected to meet Friday to discuss waiving that rule, allowing candidates more freedom to attend any debate, POLITICO reported

Republican debate viewership has consistently declined since the first debate on August 23, which attracted over 12 million people. Former President Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, has skipped each of the first four GOP debates, leaving the stage to those who are trying to catch him as he leads by nearly 50 points in the Real Clear Politics average of national polling. 

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  ‘Still Scratching My Head’: CNN Announces GOP Debate At St. Anselm College Without Clearing It With School Or Party, Officials Say