CLEVELAND, Ohio — Jack Heath, the host of New Hampshire Today on WGIR-AM in New Hampshire and the moderator of the recent “Voters First Forum” on C-SPAN at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, walked Breitbart News exclusively through why, when he hosted the Monday night forum, he focused on immigration, national security and other issues the mainstream media ignore.
When it came to immigration, he didn’t just ask about illegal immigration—he focused on the levels of legal immigration to the United States—and when it came to national security, he focused on pushing the Republican candidates in front of him on specific plans rather than pure rhetorical platitudes. He also brought up, when talking with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of the most under-reported scandals in America: widespread drug addiction and a heroin and pain killer epidemic.
What follows is a slightly edited transcript of an exclusive interview Heath gave to Breitbart News on Wednesday explaining his decision to focus on these issues, and his advice to moderators of future candidate forums and the upcoming Republican debates ahead of the 2016 GOP primaries. He warned that moderators, like the ones for the Thursday night debate here in Cleveland, Ohio, should avoid being activists and instead ask about issues that voters care about and on which voters need to know where candidates stand.
BREITBART NEWS NETWORK (BNN): “One of the things you asked a lot of these different candidates that I’m shocked that it took this long before they started getting asked this stuff on a main stage, but about the issue of legal immigration levels. Why are you asking about this? Why is it an important issue?”
JACK HEATH (JH): “Most of the topics we focused we received directly from New Hampshire voters who indicated they were interested and they were going to look forward to getting to know these candidates. The two top issues that came up were on immigration and the economy. Most of the voter questions and suggested questions on immigration were on immigration reform, on illegal immigration and it just donned on me shortly before the forum in the final check through of some of the questions we were going over and then my own areas of follow-up, I wanted to see if the candidates had any idea directly or indirectly the number of legal immigrants that might get green cards each year and with all the talk on undocumented immigrants—because they all have their border security plan or their illegal immigration plan, they talk on that—do they think that the number of legal immigrants let in each year should be affected? I was just trying to get to that. And I think a few of them answered it but the specifics weren’t really there, or a number—I tried to get a number out of them or specifics—and I think one of the candidates did say it probably should be lower for the time being. I just wanted to go at them with the question on the number of legal aliens and if that number should be affected.”
BNN: “I don’t know if you’ve been following what Senator Sessions from Alabama has been putting out there. His subcommittee in the Senate put out a graph this past week that shows that—if you look at the graph it’s unbelievable. It puts the numbers of people coming into the country legally—by our own government allowing it—just unbelievable high amounts of numbers. I don’t know if that’s factoring into your decision to ask about this?”
JH: “I had to look up myself a couple different sources what the number is, and it’s an elusive number which tells me it’s probably greater than what we’re seeing. I wanted to see if the candidates wanted to comment on if this administration has been trying to increase or get more lax, but again everyone talks about illegal—undocumented—I just wanted to get at an updated focus for them on what is our legal immigration policy and what should it be.”
BNN: “Again, another issue you asked a lot of the candidates about was national security issues—and again, this stuff doesn’t always get focused on in the mainstream media. They want to focus on all sorts of different other things. Why focus in on national security? I remember one memorable exchange was with Gov. Pataki with his response to 9/11, and there were others with different other candidates about their plans to defeat ISIS. Why draw extra focus to national security stuff?”
JH: “I sense from doing my morning radio show on the stations that I’m on with iHeartRadio that there’s a lot of concern with voters here in New Hampshire and on the voter surveys about ISIS in particular but not just ISIS, the Middle East in general—and this administration’s policies toward Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. I was trying to drill down a little bit on Syria and specifically what would their plan be to defeat ISIS and would they commit military resources and advise them with air, ground, special forces in a limited period with some allies where we could significantly put a dent in ISIS’s strongholds and communications where we know they are in Syria and would you as president commit to that? I put them to the spot if they would do that and then I asked a few of them if America has the appetite or stomach for more troops—more than just a few hundred or thousand—on the ground if we were going to take down ISIS. I was trying to ferret out of them the answer to that big question—what would your plan be and would you commit to troops more than just advisers? Would you arm the Syrians?”
BNN: “Now, another issue that I’m grateful you brought up, and this was in your questioning with Gov. Christie, is the issue of the drug epidemic—like heroin and pain killers and all these things that are really tearing apart all these families across the country—and again I just haven’t seen this brought up on a national level like this until now. I think the governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, has an incredible plan to deal with this. He’s the only one really talking about it. But why bring this issue up? Why is this an important issue?”
JH: “Again, a combination of concerns raised on my morning radio show and we are just hearing from more and more law enforcement officials in Manchester, New Hampshire, and other communities in New Hampshire, that they have a crisis with drug addiction—heroin in particular—and I assume that other states like New Jersey or Louisiana, where the governors were there, that they’ve dealt with it. I think that’s an important issue. If you look at crime, and who’s committing the crime over and over again. A lot of people want to talk about gun control or what weapon is used, but what about what is the real source of crime? I think this drug thing, particularly heroin, is a real problem. And I just wanted to ask about, and the other reason is because I was moderating for two and a half hours the Union Leader people provided a makeup artist. I was, before the show, the makeup artist wanted to tell me that her daughter a few months ago died of a heroin overdose and she was about 20 years old. She asked me as a voter in New Hampshire—she’s a voter in New Hampshire—to ask the candidates about this. That kind of sealed it when she asked me right before I went on if I would bring it up.”
BNN: “The last thing I wanted to ask you about is you also asked about the trade issues, the trade deals that we’re negotiating overseas. Why focus in on that stuff?”
JH: “On the Democratic side, with Hillary Clinton running, you can back to Bill Clinton’s presidency, and I was just curious what they thought about NAFTA now and I was curious about ‘free trade’ and ‘fair trade.’ There’s so much talk about China and Donald Trump has made such a big deal about China. These terms, these things gloss over in most people’s minds. They don’t really pay attention to what is trade? What is a trade agreement? I just kind of wanted to resurrect it. The last time I remember this being a big deal was back when Ross Perot was talking about NAFTA. I wanted to kind of get their take on trade and free trade and when is it fair trade and things like that.”
BNN: “Anything else you want to add, just generally about bringing these issues to the forefront? Any advice for the Fox News guys this week?”
JH: “Far be it from me to give advice to Megyn or Bret or whoever’s doing it. They’re good at what they do. But I do think based on the C-SPAN interview I did after the show and the Baltimore Sun piece yesterday after the forum, and why it was refreshing and why it really was different, and I think sometimes media people think about what they want to get across and what they want to talk about. I think what made our Voters First Forum different was looking at the voters—surveying and listening and taking direct questions. I basically facilitated as a conduit, as a moderator, and it may be a reminder to some of the national and local media that when you have the honor of interviewing perhaps the next president of the United States or asking questions, there’s a big difference between being a moderator and a being an activist in the course of these. I won’t use the name of a certain national media person from the last go-around where I think that particular person went beyond the line talking about Benghazi. Sometimes the national media think they know more than the candidates, and they forget that I think their role is to moderate these events not to—if you want to get involved, put your name on a ballot and run for office. If you want to be involved in politics that much, have the guts to put your name on a ballot and run for office. But if you’re going to be a moderator—and my background is in television news mostly but now I’m a radio talk show host, but here I was asked to moderate. Not give my opinions. I think sometimes there’s a line that’s crossed or blurred and I think American voters right now are so turned off at politics that they find it refreshing if media people focused on being a moderator rather than being an activist at these events.”