A top anchor for Fox News signaled on Thursday that the network may reconsider its format for future Republican presidential debates, as the controversy continues over its decision to limit participation to the top 10 candidates for the August 6 debate.
In an interview with Washingtonian magazine, Bret Baier, who will co-moderate Fox's August debate, acknowledged that limiting the stage in the first debate to the top 10 candidates led to bitterness among those who don't make the cut.
"So our answer to that is couplefold," Baier said in the interview, published Thursday. "One is, it's the most candidates on stage ever. Two is the debate's in Ohio and it's a national debate. We're a national network. And three is, we're going to have a debate in Iowa right before the caucuses. And they may have different criteria for that."
Fox drew scorn from some of the GOP presidential candidates after the network announced its debate rules in May. There are 16 major GOP candidates running, and the six who don't make the top ten will only get to participate in a forum planned for the afternoon of Aug. 6, which will likely get far less coverage. A debate CNN will host in September follows a similar format.
Critics of the current debate configuration charged that it rewarded name recognition and celebrity status. For example, former reality TV star Donald Trump is more likely to make the stage than former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, the field's only woman.
Some say polls in early primary states are more important than national ones, and that this should be a factor. While it's possible that Baier may be hinting that basing future debates on that factor, he didn't offer any further clues as to how the rules might change.
Lindsey Graham, who is near the bottom of most national polls, said in early July that the Fox rules for participate were "lousy" and a "dumb way to weed out the field."
Rick Santorum, another Republican presidential candidate who is on his second run for the White House, is also polling outside of the top 10 in national polls. In June, he called the format "arbitrary" and "irrational."
Aside from a Fox Business debate scheduled for November, Fox is scheduled to host its second debate in Iowa in January. CNN will host the GOP field's second official debate.