New York magazine reports that Fox News' rules for the upcoming Republican presidential debate are generating considerable controversy among staffers at the network.
Fox News has previously announced that the top 10 performers in national polls will qualify for the first debate, but the network has yet to provide clarity on which polls will be included in its tally.
Fox has described their debate as the “Cleveland Primary.” Supporters of candidates near the cutoff have been buying ad time on the network to reportedly increase their likelihood of qualifying for the debate.
Gabriel Sherman writes in New York that “inside Fox, the debate is generating controversy among Ailes's senior ranks. ”A Fox personality told the reporter that there is “total confusion” about the debate process, and accused Ailes and other executives of “making it up as they go along.” Another personality described it as “crazy stuff” where “you have a TV executive deciding who is in -- and out -- of a debate.”
According to Sherman, advisers for Gov. John Kasich and Gov. Rick Perry “have taken to lobbying Ailes and Fox executives to use polls that put their guy over the line.” A source close to the Perry campaign said that “GOP fund-raiser and Ailes friend Georgette Mosbacher recently called Ailes” on his behalf. Sherman notes that “Ailes is certainly hoping to produce the best television, which would give the unpredictable Perry the advantage.”
In recent days, Perry has been attacking current front-runner Donald Trump, who has benefited from Fox News promoting him. On-air personalities like Eric Bolling have reportedly been instructed by Ailes to defend the reality TV star despite the misgivings of network owner Rupert Murdoch.
A Kasich adviser told Sherman, “We don't know what methodology they're going to use. We've been asking the question and they haven't shared.”
A “Fox insider” told him that “Roger likes Kasich,” who used to host a show on the network, and “knows it'll look awful if the sitting governor isn't on that stage.”