NEW YORK -- The Washington Post and Univision News announced plans Wednesday for an election-focused partnership that will include a joint Republican candidates' forum in March 2016.
Univision, the nation's most-watched Spanish-language network, was notably not among the media organizations selected by the Republican National Committee earlier this year to sponsor a primary debate. The decision came just days after RNC Chairman Reince Priebus suggested Republicans aren't “treated fairly on Univision,” which has been especially tough on the party when it comes to immigration.
However, BuzzFeed, which first reported on the candidates' forum, cited a Republican source claiming that Univision had never submitted a debate request, which would suggest the network hadn't been snubbed by the party. Univision spokesman Jose Zamora did not immediately comment on the claim.
The RNC, which started taking greater control over primary debates following the 20-debate marathon in the 2012 election cycle, sanctioned nine debates for the 2016 cycle. Two other Spanish-language networks, Telemundo and CNN en Español, were selected to participate in these sanctioned debates.
Univision and The Post haven’t settled on an exact date or location for the March forum, but both organizations indicated in releases distributed on Wednesday that the event will take place after the early voting contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. The two news organizations plan to invite “the leading candidates” in the race, according to the releases.
While the RNC will penalize Republican candidates for taking part in debates not sanctioned by the committee, they are allowed to participate in forums in which they don't engage directly with one another. The two news organizations did not specify Wednesday how the forum would be organized.
"While we encourage forums that are in compliance with RNC rules, we are currently uncertain of the proposed format for this forum and therefore cannot confirm it is permitted under the rules," RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer told The Huffington Post. "Until further clarification, as stated in the RNC rules, candidates who participate in an unsanctioned debate will not be permitted to participate in sanctioned debates."
Zamora said the format is still being developed.
“We want to host a forum that is exciting and innovative and different from the traditional ways candidates interact with one another,” Zamora said. “We plan to host a dynamic forum the candidates will want to attend.”
The forum is part of a larger collaboration between the two newsrooms, according to the releases.
Washington Post Managing Editor Kevin Merida said in a statement that the “goal is to produce together the most authoritative, innovative coverage of Hispanic voters ever seen during a presidential campaign cycle.”
Isaac Lee, Univision’s president of news and digital and the CEO of millennial-focused, English-language network Fusion, said in a statement that the “collaboration will allow us to enhance and expand our coverage of the 2016 presidential elections and provide both our audiences with the most comprehensive and reliable profile of the U.S. Hispanic electorate available to date.”
Univision and The Post will partner on polls, and journalists will appear on each others' platforms, the releases indicated. For instance, Spanish-speaking Post editors and reporters will go on Univision, while the network's Democratic and Republican analysts will appear on the Post's print, web and platforms.
This story has been updated to include a more detailed comment from Spicer.
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