William Loeb, publisher of The Manchester Union Leader, today charged Rep. Philip M. Crane (R-Ill.) with using "kids' stuff" and Nixonian tactics to counter harsh editorial barbs against him.
Loeb, a staunch supporter of Ronald Reagan, also said his statewide newspaper is investigating the personal affairs to Texas former governor John B. Connally, considered a top challenger to Reagan in the nation's first primary here next year.
Crane, the first annouunced candidate for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, physically barred Union Leader reporters from a news conference Friday. He charged that the paper has smeared him with "slanderous vituperation" and "vile innuendos" in articles portraying him as a hard-drinking playboy.
Loeb responded to Crane's action by saying, "It shows if he ever got in the White House he'd act like a dictator."
"I think you can tell a lot about how a person is going to perform in office by how he handles his own personal affairs," Loeb said in defense of his stories, "and I don't think you can get a reliable president out of a background like that."
Countering charges that his paper is on a crusade to discredit Reagan's opposition here, Loeb said, "We're going to do an examination of Ronald Reagan, too, backwards and forwards, what can be found against him and what can be found for him."
Crane said Loeb's newspaper is guilty of violating journalistic ethics, earning it a status as a "nonpaper." Of Loeb, Crane said, "I question his fitness to be classified among those who constitute the fourth estate."
Loeb today labeled Crane's campaign "ridiculous," and called his action against the Union Leader, "kids' stuff; it seems to be pretty juvenile . . . it reminds me of Nixon's enemy list, which was a silly thing of Nixon to do, too."
The New Hampshire House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution recently condemning the Union Leader for its attacks on Crane.
Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine), also the focus of personal attacks by the Union Leader against him and his wife in the 1972 primary, finished his presidential chances when he wept during a speech denouncing Loeb.
Crane was quoted here Friday saying the publisher "is not going to provoke me to tears."