Russert Defends Himself against Union-Leader Editorial

By Jerry Miller | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

Manchester, NH ( - NBC Washington bureau chief and "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert is defending himself against a front-page editorial attack in the Manchester-based Union Leader newspaper.

The editorial, signed by publisher Joseph McQuaid, took Russert to task for the way Russert moderated Thursday night's Republican presidential debate at the University of New Hampshire. McQuaid said Russert did "exactly what many of his brethren in the national media often try to do - decide the contest before the New Hampshire voters have a chance to do so."

The editorial accused Russert of largely ignoring Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer and Sen. Orrin Hatch, while presenting "his own two-man show with candidates George Bush and John wonder the two are ahead in the polls."

"The national media may have figured it out for us -- Bush the name versus McCain the hero. No others need apply. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy," he added.

Concluding the editorial McQuaid stated, "But as candidates Orrin Hatch and Steve Forbes attempted to remind us, the real poll will be taken February 1st by New Hampshire voters. As they have done many times before, we hope the voters will set the national media straight. That's the New Hampshire way."

The Union Leader was one of several sponsors of the GOP forum and had a hand in selecting Russert. The newspaper also has endorsed Forbes' presidential bid.

A Saturday Union Leader front-page story, accompanied by a post-debate color photograph of Russert speaking with McCain and his wife Cindy, said Russert "respectfully disagrees" with McQuaid's editorial.

The NBC staffer said he reviewed the program's tape and found the amount of time taken by each of the six candidates was "very comparable."

According to the story, Russert said that Bauer was "within nine seconds of the time Bush got." Russert reportedly said that of the six candidates, Keyes and Forbes did complain to him. But Russert added, the Bauer campaign also called to congratulate him and told the reporter the newspaper complained because of its recent editorial endorsement of Forbes.

Russert denied favoring either Bush or McCain, but acknowledged that early in the debate he, on two occasions, sought responses from Bush, after other candidates criticized his father.

Russert also told the paper he allowed McCain to "go on" in describing his role in preaching a religious service while he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.