(CNSNews.com) - All 10 current candidates for the Republican Party's 2008 presidential nomination will be able to take part in a debate to be aired on Fox News on May 15, the cable channel said Wednesday.
Cybercast News Service reported earlier that seven of the 10 might not make the cut for the debate given the organizers' decision to exclude those not achieving at least one percent in opinion polls.
That drew sharp criticism and concern from some conservative commentators and campaigns. But the network and the organizers - the South Carolina Republican Party - affirmed that all 10 candidates would be in the debate.
A Fox News spokesman said the criterion applied to a poll in South Carolina - where the debate is to be held - and not national ones. The rules were set by the South Carolina GOP, which also requires that candidates must have filed papers in South Carolina and have paid the proper fees to be a candidate.
The network spokesman said the poll being used was a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Polls of 600 likely South Carolina voters surveyed April 1-3, in which each of the 10 candidates polled one percent or higher.
"We would like to extend a warm South Carolina welcome to ten White House hopefuls who are seeking the Republican nomination to be the next president of the United States," South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson said in a written statement Wednesday.
They are the trio widely considered frontrunners for the nomination - Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani - as well as Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Reps. Ron Paul of Texas, Duncan Hunter of California and Tom Tancredo of Colorado, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.
In the month-old South Carolina poll, Giuliani led with 26 percentage points, followed by McCain (25) and Romney (14). Brownback, Huckabee and Thompson scored two points each, and Gilmore, Hunter, Paul and Tancredo a single point each. Two other politicians who are not currently running also featured - former House Speaker Newt Gingrich scored five points and former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.) got two.
Accuracy in Media Editor Cliff Kincaid, among the first to criticize Fox News for the criteria, suspects public pressure pushed the news organization to include all of the candidates.
"If every candidate had access according to a state poll, why announce the criteria to begin with?" Kincaid told Cybercast News Service after learning of the debate announcement.
"Not only the public, but candidates' campaigns I've talked to were concerned about this," Kincaid said. "Fox did the right thing. No news organization should decide who is qualified to debate."
The event is being billed as the "First-In-The-South Republican Party Presidential Candidates Debate." It will be aired at 9 p.m. on May 15 from the campus of the University of South Carolina.
Fox News Channel Washington Managing Editor Brit Hume will moderate the debate, and Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace and White House correspondent Wendell Goler will ask questions of the candidates.
MSNBC, whose ratings are dwarfed by those of Fox News, is broadcasting a GOP candidates' debate on Thursday with all the candidates.
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