DNC Excludes Fox News From Hosting A 2020 Primary Debate

As it has since 2007, the Democratic National Committee is barring Fox News from hosting a debate featuring the party's candidates for President.

The Democratic National Committee has announced that it would not sponsor any debate between its Presidential contenders hosted by Fox News Channel:

The Democratic National Committee has decided to exclude Fox News Channel from televising any of its candidate debates during the 2019-2020 cycle as a result of published revelations detailing the cable network’s close ties to the Trump administration.

In a statement Wednesday, DNC Chairman Tom Perez cited a story in the New Yorker magazine this week that detailed how Fox has promoted President Trump’s agenda. The article, titled “The Making of the Fox News White House,” suggested that the news network had become a “propaganda” vehicle for Trump.

“I believe that a key pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach all voters,” said Perez in his statement to The Washington Post. “That is why I have made it a priority to talk to a broad array of potential media partners, including Fox News. Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.”

Winning the exclusive rights to televise the 12 candidate debates is considered a prestigious prize in the television business. The debates typically draw large audiences — the first Republican debate in August 2015 attracted a record 24 million viewers — and are a vehicle for promoting the networks’ news programs.

Numerous networks, including Fox, have submitted proposals to the DNC to televise one of the 12 scheduled debates, which will start in June. So far, the organization has only awarded rights to the first two — to NBC (along with sister networks MSNBC and Telemundo) and to CNN.

In a statement, Fox News Senior Vice President Bill Sammon said: “We hope the DNC will reconsider its decision to bar Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, all of whom embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism, from moderating a Democratic presidential debate. They’re the best debate team in the business and they offer candidates an important opportunity to make their case to the largest TV news audience in America, which includes many persuadable voters.”

The network hosted back-to-back town hall meetings with Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in 2016 but did not televise a Democratic debate that year.

Fox’s connections to Trump have been documented for years. He had a regular spot on its morning program “Fox and Friends” starting in 2011 and has hired several of its former contributors and executives to work in his administration, including its former co-president, Bill Shine, who is now the president’s deputy chief of staff for communications. Trump has been interviewed many times on the network and has promoted various Fox talking points and personalities on Twitter.

Some observers have suggested that the network has become a kind of de facto “state TV,” shaping and promoting Trump’s policy agency.

As part of the justification for the DNC’s decision, DNC Chairman Tom Perez cites the piece The New Yorker that I wrote about earlier this week, but Colby Hull at Mediaite argues that the DNC is making a mistake:

There is no shortage of smart people who have lauded this decision. And there are reasons to support shunning a network that often appears to be in the tank for the Trump administration.  But it’s my belief that Democratic party is making an enormous mistake by passing over Fox News; a mistake so big that could very well end up costing them the general election.

(…)

There are many details in the New Yorker article that would lead anyone to conclude that the seemingly symbiotic relationship between the White House and Fox News is “inappropriate,” and I just explained in a column yesterday why some curious programming decisions made by Fox News execs have placed them under a critical microscope.

But a close reading of the New Yorker piece almost entirely cites evidence from the opinion side of Fox News programming. Any presidential debate would be produced and hosted by members of Fox News news division, including respected news veterans such as Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum for example. All are exceedingly professional and journalists of integrity that Democratic candidates should have no reason to fear.

These three hosts will almost certainly ask tough questions from a perspective that candidates will need to face if they want to survive in the general election. That is their job and no one can realistically expect them to not do that professionally.

Perez conclusion that Fox News is “not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate” seems to suggest that conservative stalwarts like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham or even Brit Hume would somehow be involved, and that is too far-fetched a concept to take seriously. This is a vital opportunity and challenge for the candidates, one of whom will almost certainly have to face off against these anchors in a general election debate hosted by Fox News. Do they really want to face questions then, after snubbing them in the primary?

There is a fair point to make that the Democratic party should not reward a media outlet that is so consistently dedicated to undermining their agenda, often with misinformed and specious arguments. And there is some risk for candidates who would be reasonably wary of an organization that might be more interested in generating viral bites for the general election than conducting an honest debate.

Hull then goes on to note that Fox News is, essentially, the only major media voice for right-of-center programming and goes on to argue, albeit without very much detail, that Democrats would be passing up a “great benefit” in shunning the network entirely. He also argues that the candidates and the Democrats in general would benefit from the coverage provided by a Fox News Channel debate because it would give them an opportunity to present their views to an admittedly skeptical audience and to “demystify” the party’s ideas and agenda by making an end-run around FNC opinion hosts like Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity who spend countless hours per day attacking Democrats. In conclusion, Hull argues that “In the marketplace of ideas, Democrats should not be afraid to confront their political foes and instead embrace the discourse,” and that the opportunity to speak to such a large audience of potential viewers who rarely hear unbiased reports about Democratic policy ideas is “simply too great an opportunity to pass up.”

In Politico, meanwhile, Jack Shafter argues that a candidate who is afraid of appearing on Fox News shouldn’t be running for President to begin with:

Rather than illustrating growing political polarization or deepening radicalization at the already radical Fox, the Perez disinvitation mostly reasserts the status quo arrangement—that the Dems see little percentage in playing ball with Fox this year or any presidential campaign year. The idea that the New Yorker story could have alerted Perez to some previously hidden right-wing, anti-Democratic Party tendencies at Fox is hilarious. The network’s Fox & Friends show has shilled for Trump since 2011, as this Post story by Paul Farhi points out, and Fox has consistently tilted for various Republicans in its commentary programming since Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch founded it in 1996. If Fox is guilty of anything, it’s guilty of being Fox.

(…)

That Republicans and Democrats seem so easily bruised by the network coverage of presidential debates shows that both expect the forums to produce infomercials that glorify their candidates, not journalistic grillings. Priebus voiced his preference for infomercial coverage in 2013 after the Republicans voted to block CNN and NBC from hosting debates

(…)

As for the Democrats, no matter your view of Fox or the New Yorker‘s view of Fox, the party’s avoidance of the network reveals a shameful political gutlessness, especially considering that Fox intended to assign tame newsers Bret Baier and Chris Wallace to the debate, not feral opinionators Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. Being president involves making unpalatable decisions and confronting tough customers on a daily basis. It means learning how to tell voters what they don’t want to hear and convince them they should like it. So any politician who can’t hold his own against a journalist from the other team should be disqualified from running.

Finally, Evan Siegfried notes that there could be some advantages to a Fox-hosted debate for Democrats:

One common misconception about Fox News is that it’s filled with wall-to-wall programming and personalities boosting Trump and his every utterance — a frequent charge of the network’s critics. True, some hosts, such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, support the president and do not hide it. But these are the proprietors of opinion programs, and they are no different from opinion columnists like The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman and the New York Times’ Charles Blow, or MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow. On the news side at Fox, several anchors refuse to toe the Trump line and remain devoted to solid reporting of stories and discussion of issues. (Full disclosure: I am an occasional guest on news and opinion shows on Fox News and Fox Business, and I am not compensated for these appearances.)

There is an immediate, highly relevant historical example here: the third and final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in October 2016. Fox News’s Chris Wallace hosted it, and figures from the left and the right cheered his work. The New Yorker’s television critic, Emily Nussbaum, tweeted: “Gotta say, Chris Wallace is a pro. Cool demeanor, asking clear follow-ups,” while the New York Times wrote that Wallace “mixed humor with scolding and persistence with patience to guide his charges toward the most substantive encounter of an unusually vicious election.”

Lower-profile and lower-stakes coverage follows basic journalistic principles, too. Harris Faulkner earned praise from Slate, a frequent Fox News antagonist, for a segment discussing gun policy that she moderated in 2017 (note: I was one of the participants). Anchors Shepard SmithNeil CavutoDana PerinoMartha MacCallumBret Baier and others have also repeatedly received plaudits for their devotion to presenting the truth. Does the DNC think they have suddenly abandoned those values? (Mayer’s piece alleged that a Fox News reporter was told to kill a story about Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels. Even if true, the executives who made the decision are no longer with Fox News.)

Further, since the 2016 election, Democrats have openly discussed their desire to win over Trump voters — many of whom are Fox News viewers. According to Nielsen, the network’s viewers are 94 percent white and have a median age of 65: exactly the demographic in which Democrats will need to make headway in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio.

These voters aren’t a transparently lost cause. Just over four months ago, there was a noticeable change in how white Americans voted. White voters backed Trump by a margin of 21 points in 2016 but but preferred Republicans by just 10 points in 2018, according to the Pew Research Center. At the same time, voters 65 and older also saw a seismic shift that benefited Democrats, as these voters went from favoring Republicans by 16 percentage points in 2014 to preferring them by just two points in 2018. These Americans are clearly persuadable if they hear the right message. They may not leap onto Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s bandwagon, but the populism of Elizabeth Warren or the pragmatism of John Hickenlooper might appeal to some of them — maybe just enough of them.

Perez and the DNC have shut the door on a golden opportunity to talk directly to an audience of potential voters whom they have said they want to win over — voters who already trust the likely debate moderators from Fox News’s stable of qualified anchors. The decision may elicit a smile from Democrats now, but probably not on the morning of Nov. 4, 2020, when they might be asking themselves, as they did last time, if they could have done more.

This isn’t the first time that there has been a dispute between the DNC and Fox News regarding hosting a Presidential debate. The Hollywood Reporter noted earlier this week that, Fox News has not hosted a Democratic primary debate in more than 15 years. There was supposed to be a debate aired on the network in 2007 featuring Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the other candidates still in the race, but that event was canceled after the late Roger Ailes cracked what many considered an offensive joke about Obama in a speech, a joke that played on the similarities between Obama’s name and Osama bin Laden’s. Nine years later Fox News anchor Bret Baier, who along with Chris Wallace and Shephard Smith is seen as coming from the “hard news” side of FNC’s coverage rather than the opinion side where hosts like Hannity and Ingraham reside, pitched the idea of a Fox News Channel debate to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a suggestion that Wasserman Schultz rejected. .Of course, it’s worth noting that during the 2016 cycle the DNC had put its thumb on the scale for the Clinton campaign early on, especially with regard to a debate schedule that was far more limited than the Republican schedule and which seemed to be deliberately scheduled for nights when audience numbers were likely to be low.

Of course, Democrats aren’t the only party to have disputes with one of the cable news channels regarding debates during the primary season. In 2013, the Republican National Committee initially decided to block both CNN and NBC, including not just MSNBC but also CNBC and NBC News from hosting debates during the 2016 election cycle. At the time, the RNC’s disputes were allegedly based on the fact that, at the time, CNN was planning a Hillary Clinton documentary and NBC was planning some sort of Clinton-centered miniseries that would have starred Diane Lane. Ultimately, though, both networks canceled those projects and ended up hosting Republican debates during the 2016 cycle.

The GOP’s issues with the two networks didn’t end there. Many Republicans and conservatives complained that the CNN debates that featured Republican candidates, which were hosted by the likes of Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper, were somehow unfair to the candidates and the party. Additionally, many candidates complained about the fact that lower-polling candidates were restricted to so-called “undercard” debates that aired prior to the main stage debate when fewer people would be watching, although that was universal for all of the early GOP debates no matter which network was hosting, including Fox News Channel. The most ire in 2016, though, was reserved for NBC after a late-October 2015 debate on CNBC that many Republicans saw as being unfair in some respect. That debate led the RNC to cancel a debate scheduled for February 2016 that would have aired on NBC and on the NBC-owned Spanish language news network Telemundo. That debate also led to an effort among some of the candidates to attempt to “fix” the debates that ultimately fizzled out when it became clear that there was no consensus about what a “fair” debate should look like.

The DNC’s reluctance to have Fox News host a debate is, I suppose, understandable, but I think that both Hull and Shafer have a point when they note that the primary concerns about the idea seem to be based mostly on the content from the opinion side of the network. While it’s true that the wall between the opinion side and the “hard news” side on that network can sometimes become blurred, that’s arguably also true about CNN and MSNBC where one frequently sees hard news reporters expressing opinions. This is especially true of MSNBC where many of the daytime hosts make no secret of their point of view regarding the President or of specific issues such as gun control and climate change. Generally speaking, though, these hosts aren’t the ones that would end up asking questions or moderating a candidate debate. At CNN, the hosts of those events tend to be “hard news” hosts like Jake Tapper, John King, and Wolf Blitzer, and at NBC the hosts end up being people from the NBC News side of the business rather than MSNBC itself. Similarly, the proposal for a Fox News debate would have had candidates being asked questions by the like of Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, and Shep Smith, all three of whom are from the “news” side of the network and who have often aired content that directly contradicts claims being made by opinion-based hosts like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. Given that, those concerns would seem to be much ado about nothing.

At the same time, though, I’m not sure what the benefit is to the candidates or the Democratic Party might be to having a debate on FNC. It’s true that the network has higher viewership than either CNN and MSNBC, but that viewership is decidedly right-of-center and it doesn’t seem like they’d be all that interested in a debate among Democratic candidates, especially if it wasn’t what the DNC seems to fear the most. For both Republicans and Democrats, the purpose of these debates is supposed to be to get their candidates in front of the voters that will be inclined to vote for them, and the reality is that those viewers don’t watch Fox News Channel. That being said, though, there would be some value to having candidates from both parties face questions that they might not face in friendlier confines, so on balance, I tend to agree with Seigfried that it would be a good idea to have a Democratic debate on FNC. As Shafer puts it, if a candidate is afraid to face down questions from someone with an opposing point of view then they probably shouldn’t be running for President to begin with.

 

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2020, Media, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. SKI says:

    How do we know Hull is dead wrong?

    Fox News has not hosted a Democratic primary debate in more than 15 years.

  2. Kit says:

    What makes for a good debate? During the primaries, good debates help introduce the candidates, show how they differ, and generally separate the wheat from the chaff. Hostile hosts do not help here, but neither do softball questions. Once the presidential debates start, we really should want more of the same, but in today’s hyper-partisan atmosphere we can hardly expect that. As Michael might say, the Democrats should be controlling the narrative, and to my mind that means steering clear of Fox until it is absolutely necessary.

  3. @SKI:

    There was no FNC hosted debate in the 2008 cycle, there were no Democratic primary debates in the 2012 cycle, and FNC did not host any Democratic debates in 2016.

    The last Democratic debate hosted on FNC was in 2004.

    How is Hull wrong?

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  4. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis: he is wrong that Dems can’t win because they aren’t having a primary debate on Fox when they didn’t in 2008 when Obama won.

    It’s a clickbait/concern-troll post by him.

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Fox isn’t a news outlet. It’s a propaganda outlet that aids and abets a wannabe authoritarian who is doing everything in his power to take down our democratic republic. It is encouraging and supporting the destruction of the norms and the traditions and the institutions that make this country work. Their business model is to foment hatred and fear and division. They are a cancer on our system of government. Kudos to the DNC for recognizing this fact…yes, fact…and treating it as such.

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  6. @SKI:

    I don’t think he’s arguing that the Democrat’s “can’t win” without having a primary debate on FNC, I think he’s arguing that they are passing up an opportunity to reach a different audience by doing so. Shafer and Seigfreid make the same point.

    Assuming that all of the people who watch FNC are unpersuadable is a mistake. Many of these people are people who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then Trump in 2016. If Democrats are going to win in 2020, they need to find a way to getting those voters back.

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  7. Kylopod says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Many of these people are people who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then Trump in 2016.

    What evidence is there for this? I’ve read plenty about Obama-to-Trump voters, but I haven’t seen anything indicating they were primarily FNC watchers.

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  8. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    But it’s my belief that Democratic party is making an enormous mistake by passing over Fox News; a mistake so big that could very well end up costing them the general election

    This is just stupid.

    Anyone who is “persuadable” isn’t going to not watch at least one debate because it isn’t on Fox. Someone who *only* watches Fox News isn’t persuadable.

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  9. SKI says:

    @Kylopod: and it isn’t a question even of “primarily”. It is *exclusively*.

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  10. Mikey says:

    What nonsense. You might as well suggest the Dems are going to miss the supermarket checkout crowd because Kamala Harris won’t give an interview to the National Enquirer.

    Both the Enquirer and Fox News have been found to cheat in Trump’s favor. Fox even fed a debate question to Trump prior to a debate. They’re fully in the tank for him. Why would the Democrats want to bring eyeballs to Fox, even during the primary debates?

    Additionally, the actual viewer data show viewers actively look for and tune to networks that host debates. They’re not watching Fox and saying “Wow, a debate!” Any viewer so welded to Fox News that they won’t change the channel is vanishingly unlikely to ever vote for a Democrat anyway.

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  11. @Kylopod:

    The evidence has been found in the exit polls from states such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, all of which went for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and for Trump in 2016.

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  12. Mikey says:

    Trump skipped a 2016 GOP primary debate on Fox because he was pissed off at Megyn Kelly. Doesn’t seem to have damaged his election prospects.

  13. Kylopod says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The evidence has been found in the exit polls from states such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, all of which went for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and for Trump in 2016.

    What exit polls indicated these voters were FNC watchers? I’ve read plenty of exit polls about the 2016 election, and I don’t recall coming across any that even asked this question.

  14. Let me supplement the argument here a bit.

    I think that Democratic candidates would benefit from a Fox News debate in the same sense that I think Republican candidates benefit from not limiting their debate appearances to Fox News Channel. Indeed, one of the notable things about the 2016 campaign was the fact that Trump was willing to appear, usually via phone but let’s leave that aside for the moment, on CNN and MSNBC (usually Morning Joe) despite the fact that both networks were often quite critical of him while most of his Republican opponents passed up invitations to appear on those networks and generally speaking limited their appearances to Fox News Channel. Being seen as being able to handle questions from potentially hostile interviewers has a value that should not be underestimated, while preaching to the choir really doesn’t accomplish much of anything.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    I only watch FOX, with banners and captioning, if I look up from what I’m reading on the bike in the gym and I’ll occasionally check their website to see how they’re covering a given story. So I don’t see the opinion shows or the news anchors and I’m hardly an expert on their coverage, but I see enough to know that straight, unbiased news they ain’t, and I see no value in pretending they are.

    Also, the last voter you lost is not necessarily the easiest voter to get. Ds will do better mining educated suburban Rs and independents than going after the supposedly rural white guy watching FOX.

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  16. James Pearce says:

    At the same time, though, I’m not sure what the benefit is to the candidates or the Democratic Party might be to having a debate on FNC.

    To this Democratic Party? There apparently would be no benefit. Their contempt for the FNC audience precludes them from trying to appeal to them.

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  17. Kylopod says:

    @Doug Mataconis: You still have yet to show me the evidence that Obama-to-Trump voters were mostly FNC watchers.

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  18. Mikey says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Being seen as being able to handle questions from potentially hostile interviewers has a value that should not be underestimated

    If it were just Fox News being adversarial, I’d be more inclined to agree with you, but it’s far more than just that. But we’re not just talking about potentially hostile interviews when it comes to Fox News. They are provably biased and have been shown to assist the Republicans, and what makes it relevant to debates is the discovery of Fox feeding the Republican candidate at least one debate question. That’s not potentially hostile interviewing, that’s flat-out helping one side cheat.

  19. @Kylopod:

    Where did I say that? I didn’t.

    That being said, given the demographics of the average Fox viewer and the demographics of the voters, particularly in the Midwest, that the Democrats need to focus on winning back in 2020 I think it’s fair to say there’s a fairly good overlap.

    Also, I think the idea that only regular FNC viewers would watch a Democratic debate on Fox is mistaken. Such an event would likely draw an audience from a wide variety of sources if only because of the novelty of such an event.

    Finally, I don’t think anyone has addressed the point that a debate on FNC is likely to be moderated by the likes of Baier, Smith, and Wallace, none of whom really fall within what people generally expect from FNC hosts. (I’d also note that Chris Wallace, who principally host Fox News Sunday, was the moderator of the 3rd Presidential debate during the General Election. I don’t recall him being at all biased for or against either candidate.)

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  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I used to watch Morning Joe regularly. It made enough noise to keep me from going back to sleep and it was the least objectionable thing on at that time of day. Joe is rabidly anti-Trump now as a ploy to get people to forget how fawning he was to Trump while using him for ratings. I don’t know about CNN, but Morning Joe is not an example of hard questions from a hostile host.

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  21. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Let me supplement the argument here a bit.

    This is just more of the “both-siderism” virus that helped give us Dennison in the first place.
    You just cannot compare FNC with CNN or MSNBC.
    One of these things is not like the others.
    The more you pretend that they are all the same the more you normalize a state propaganda outlet, e.g. Pravda, in the US.

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  22. dennis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Sometimes, Doug, I’ll switch on FNC during the news hours to see what is being said about breaking news or a particular story. Unless it’s Shep Smith, you’ll find the other news hosts (Hemmer, McCallum, etc.) have on right-wing bomb-throwing guests and, to me, that’s the same as Hannity, Ingraham, and Carlson. I can’t listen to them because their arguments are irrational and make no sense.

    Let’s be realistic here, though. FNC watchers represent a demographic of white folks that hate the Democratic party because it consists of “those other people” and generally supports their causes. Generally. To FNC viewers, the Democratic party is just the party of “socialist social justice warriors”, and we can’t have social programs that uplift those colored folks, dontchaknow.

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  23. @gVOR08:

    My memory is quite different from yours apparently. Rather than fawning interviews, I recall Trump being asked tough questions that he didn’t always like. One of the most notable examples of that came, I believe in December 2015 when Trump was once again fawning over Putin and Scarborugh asked him about the journalists and dissidents that Putin has had imprisoned and murdered. When Trump brushed that aside as irrelevant, Scarborough cut him off and sent the show to commercial rather than continue the interview. Additionally, there were repeated on-air invitations to the other GOP candidates that were rarely taken up by Trump’s Republican opponents. Those candidates could have had equal time and they declined it. Who’s fault is that?

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  24. Kit says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Think of it the other way around: were you directing Fox, what would you want from the debates? I would:

    1) try to steer my preferred candidate into the best possible light (and by preferred candidate, I mean the one I’d like to see face off against Trump);

    2) I’d like to lead the others into chasing those topics (like what to do about transgender rights with concern to rest rooms) that show them as being out of step with the majority of the country.

    Now, would the Fox hosts actually stoop to this level? Dunno. But why take the chance? People cannot be persuaded, and elections these days are all about getting people fired up. I don’t like it, but that’s what it is.

  25. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Good for the DNC!

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  26. Mikey says:

    Really, at the end of the day whether the Dems have primary debates on Fox probably won’t make nearly as much difference in the Midwest as things like this:

    The End Of Era And An Industry In Lordstown, Ohio

    Lordstown, and its surrounding area, was a big deal for Trump. And it probably will be again…just not in the same way.

  27. @Kit:

    Please point me to any moment during the 3rd General Election Debate in 2016 when Chris Wallace was unfair to Hillary Clinton or bent over backwards to help Trump.

  28. al Ameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    To this Democratic Party? There apparently would be no benefit. Their contempt for the FNC audience precludes them from trying to appeal to them.

    Wow, seems to be symmetry here right? I’d say that the contempt that the FNC audience has for the so-called ‘Main Stream Media’ at at least as deep and venomous. Republicans, in particular FNC viewers, do not care about appealing to MSM viewers, they have the electoral mapped rigged to win the presidency with a minority of the popular vote, and have done enough suppression activity and gerrymandering to control statehouses despite losing the overall vote count during general elections.

    Me personally? I’d let Fox have at it.
    What’s to fear? Any candidate worth his or her bonafides should be able to handle a question from, say, a dilettante like Tucker Carlson, right? Or, do what a skilled veteran like Jerry Brown does: if you don’t like the question, turn it back on the questioner, or answer the question you wanted to be asked.

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  29. @Mikey:

    I don’t disagree with you, but I’m not sure that the closure of the Lordstown plant, which is largely due to GM’s decision to move away toward making cars due to the fact that consumers are increasingly going for SUV’s and crossover vehicles, will ensure to the harm or benefit of either candidate.

    That being said, you are largely correct that the impact of debates is probably overstated. That being said, during the primary phase they are the main means by which candidates are able to introduce themselves to voters.

  30. Kit says:

    @Doug Mataconis: That I cannot do. But I do not trust them, feel they are getting ever worse, and simply see no upside.

  31. Kylopod says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Where did I say that? I didn’t.

    Your words: “Assuming that all of the people who watch FNC are unpersuadable is a mistake. Many of these people are people who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then Trump in 2016.”

    You implied, in these two sentences, that many of the people who watch FNC voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then for Trump in 2016. You don’t have any evidence of that. You’re just making assumptions.

    All we know is that a small but significant chunk of Obama voters defected to Trump in 2016. The exact size of this group has been debated–it could be as high as 10% of Obama’s 2012 vote, maybe less. There’s evidence that this group was comprised largely of Republicans who supported Obama rather than Democrats who flipped to Trump. But given that it’s such a small slice of the electorate anyway, I would caution against making generalizations about them without further study. I don’t think there’s any basis for assuming they were comprised of faithful watchers of a network that spent the Obama years demonizing Obama.

  32. gVOR08 says:
  33. One other point I didn’t address here.

    Personally I have become skeptical about the value of these multi-candidate debates to either the respective parties or candidates. As I said in a recent post about the DNC plan to break up debates over two nights due to the expected size of the field, I think a much better forum is the “town hall” programs that CNN has been doing for the past couple months. So far, they’ve had Kamala Harris, Harold Schultz, and I believe Bernie Sanders on in a forum where the candidate answers questions both from a host and from an audience made up of voters.

    For anyone interested, there will be three of these types of programs airing on CNN Sunday night from SXSW featuring former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

  34. barbintheboonies says:

    I haven’t visited here in a very long time. I thought maybe things may have changed over time, boy was I wrong. It is always the same argument here, actually nonsense. You complain about the same things you yourselves do regularly. Most here are so blinded by your own biases. You yourselves have become the fascist you blame others for being. Most of you should really be ashamed of how you conformed to be the oppressors. The greatest disinfectant is sunlight. I see the DNC as being cowards, They have called on their base to not allow any conservative to speak, that itself should tell you something. It has become the norm and I feel this is very dangerous indeed. Doug I was just one of those Obama voters in 2008, and 2012. I did not see the subtle changes that were not good ones, but I soon felt them in the way of oppression. I do not like what I see. We have embolden the worst of society to rise up and beat down everything America stood for. Now most here are beating down others to do more of that.

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  35. Michael Reynolds says:

    Not going on Trump’s own personal Pravda is not only logical, it’s the morally correct move. To cast this as ‘Dems are scared of questions,’ is utter bullshit. Fox is not a news organization, it is a propaganda tool of racists, misogynists, gay-haters, xenophobes and amoral billionaire swine. Al Jazeera is a good equivalent in modern terms.

    We don’t offer validation to professional liars. That’s the job of Republicans.

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  36. James Pearce says:

    @al Ameda:

    I’d say that the contempt that the FNC audience has for the so-called ‘Main Stream Media’ at at least as deep and venomous.

    Yeah, but you don’t have to be like them. This turn by the Dems to being as equally awful as the GOP has been an unmitigated disaster. Name one good thing that’s come from that.

    @Kylopod:

    All we know is that a small but significant chunk of Obama voters defected to Trump in 2016.

    Well, we do know that “Romney voters defecting to Hillary in 2016” wasn’t a thing. The important question about these defectors isn’t “how many in 2016” but “how many in 2020?”

    Will there be less…or more?

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  37. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    That being said, you are largely correct that the impact of debates is probably overstated. That being said, during the primary phase they are the main means by which candidates are able to introduce themselves to voters.

    I think this starts to get at the major flaw in the whole tenor of this post – the confusion and conflation of primary and general debates and their respective voter pools.

    It does not matter whether the potentially nonexistent group of persuadable FNC-only voters watch a primary debate. They likely aren’t voting in the Democratic primary.

    Anyone who is interested in watching a primary debate, will be able to watch it on a different channel. It isn’t like they subscribe to a cable package that only carried FNC but not the networks or CNN or MSNBC.

    What *might* matter is whether they watch a general election debate but those are carried on *all* the networks.

    The assertion being made is that there is a penalty to the eventual Democratic nominee in the general election if they don’t have any of the primary debates on FNC. No actual explanation for why this would matter or to whom in the general.

  38. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    To cast this as ‘Dems are scared of questions,’ is utter bullshit. Fox is not a news organization, it is a propaganda tool of racists, misogynists, gay-haters, xenophobes and amoral billionaire swine.

    Dems are scared of questions from racists, misogynists, gay-haters, xenophobes and amoral billionaire swine.

    They’re also scared of the right wing journalists at Fox News.

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  39. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    Well, we do know that “Romney voters defecting to Hillary in 2016” wasn’t a thing.

    Depends how you define “a thing.” There were such voters, but they were significantly outnumbered by Obama-to-Trump voters. According to one study, 11% of Trump voters said they voted for Obama, compared with just 4% of Clinton voters who said they voted for Romney. Moreover, Romney-to-Clinton voters were likelier to be found in areas that mattered less electorally.

  40. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    They’re also scared of the right wing journalists at Fox News.

    More likely it’s the same reason I don’t engage red hats at the local bar…it’s an exercise in futility…their positions are always based upon utter nonsense, mis-information, and propaganda they picked up from Fox.
    Then there is the fact that there are only 1 or 2 journalists at Fox.
    Riddle me this Mr. Insipid; Maddow gets roughly the same ratings as Hannity. Why is it that Dennison – your dream alpha-male – won’t go on Maddow?

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  41. MarkedMan says:

    When I saw that the comment total on this thread had jumped so quickly I almost didn’t click on it despite thinking the discussion was interesting. In so many threads that show a similar jump in comments it turns out to be one poster in particular, one who sends forth flocks of ludicrous comments full of internal inconsistencies and hysterical goalpost lugging, which in turn trigger the people who just can’t stop themselves from leaping at such bait. And sure enough as I scrolled down to the bottom, there it was. And another interesting discussion bites the dust.

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  42. mattbernius says:

    I honestly think this is a smart strategic decision for the primaries. The same goes for why it doesn’t make sense for the Republicans to hold one of their primaries on MSNBC.

    The simple reality is that the majority of primaries are intra-party not inter-party. Which means that, as we see every cycle, they are largely about serving up red-meat to the base. Fox News viewership are, generally speaking, not the one who are voting in Democratic Primaries.

    Things are phrased in the primary in a way that appeals to Democrats. Why in the heck would they want to use that language in front of a primarily Republican/Conservative audience? It could potentially harm the candidate in the long term.

    Now once there’s a Democratic candidate, there’s no question that they need to be prepared to debate on Fox.

    BTW, the same also holds 100% true for the Republicans and MSNBC.

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  43. Tyrell says:

    @Kit: These debates have now become controlled, scripted, choreographed productions. Meaningful questions and relevant issues are avoided. Now it is “gotcha” type stuff and political agendas. We have witnessed moderators trying to question some responses.

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  44. SKI says:

    Josh Marshall nails it: Fox Hosting a Democratic Debate is Silly

    Hosting a debate is not access. It’s an institutional collaboration between a political organization and a news organization. Fox News has a number of journalists who are good journalists on their own. But as an organization Fox exists as and is run to damage Democrats. We’ve seen new evidence of this this week from Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, killing a story one of its reporters already had because it might be damaging to President Trump. But we already knew this was the case.

    The idea that the Democratic party would partner with such an organization to run a debate is frankly bizarre. Why not choose the Wisconsin GOP to host one? Or perhaps a better analogy would be American Crossroads, the GOP SuperPac founded by Karl Rove.

    The analogy isn’t as off as you might think. Fox isn’t even just an ideological news organization. A news organization can have a strong editorial line and still follow basic journalistic principles in its coverage, the first of which being fundamental honestly with its viewers. Fox News does not do that. Remember, I’m not talking about individual journalists. For clarity, this doesn’t mean not allow Fox journalists to cover a debate or the campaign on the same terms as reporters from other news organizations. It doesn’t even mean rejecting individuals simply because they work at Fox. Chris Wallace is a good journalist and could be a good debate moderator. I’m talking about the institution. And hosting a debate is something the institution does. That is crystal clear.

  45. SKI says:

    @mattbernius:

    Now once there’s a Democratic candidate, there’s no question that they need to be prepared to debate on Fox.

    Networks don’t host general election debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates handles organizing the debates and they run on all networks that wish to carry them. I think something like 11 different networks carried the debates in 2016.

    So while a Den nominee would need to be prepared to answer questions from Fox journalists, particularly if Wallace moderates again, but they won’t be debating in a setting Fox can rig/control.

  46. James Pearce says:

    @Kylopod:

    According to one study, 11% of Trump voters said they voted for Obama, compared with just 4% of Clinton voters who said they voted for Romney.

    That’s a big difference, though, almost the difference between “a thing” and “not a thing.” Trump was able to peel off 1 out of every 10 Obama voters, while Hillary was only able to peel off 4 out of 100 Romney voters.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    it’s an exercise in futility

    It so often is…

    @MarkedMan:

    And another interesting discussion bites the dust.

    I’m sorry you feel that way, but your first appearance in this thread is to mention how it’s been derailed? Wow, thanks for your contribution. No doubt you’ll get 4 or 5 people to agree with you and you guys can trade off downvoting me and calling me names and all the rest of that gunk. It’s all so tiresome.

    I can handle it. But sometimes I just don’t feel like it.

    @mattbernius:

    Now once there’s a Democratic candidate, there’s no question that they need to be prepared to debate on Fox.

    You make a great point on the primaries and I’m half-persuaded. But the “Fox isn’t a news organization” crowd won’t hear the part about how the next Dem candidate needs to be prepared to debate on Fox.

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  47. Kit says:

    @Tyrell:

    These debates have now become controlled, scripted, choreographed productions.

    Most of me wants to agree with you, then I remember that Trump/Clinton debate when Trump started prowling around the stage. That shit wasn’t scripted!

  48. James Pearce says:

    @James Pearce:

    Trump was able to peel off 1 out of every 10 Obama voters, while Hillary was only able to peel off 4 out of 100 Romney voters.

    Let me rephrase because this is inaccurate and not what I meant. “1 in 10 Trump voters were former Obama voters.”

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  49. Eric Florack says:

    OMG Fox News is so biased!

    (* continue is chomping on Cheetos in his underwear on a couch in his parents basement, while being spoon fed Democrat talking points from CNN*)

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  50. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    It so often is…

    As is often he case with trolls…you refuse to address the question posed.

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  51. Gustopher says:

    @mattbernius: I think that once we get down to a small number of candidates, a FoxTV Hostile Debate might be a good thing.

    Early on, it would just be used to ask Hickenlooper or someone about whether he supports abortion on demand for transgender men serving in the military, and use the baffled discombobulated response to try to paint all Democrats as outside the mainstream.

    Later, they will still try that, but when we are down to a small number of candidates, the benefits of testing those candidates may outweigh the risks.

  52. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    As is often he case with trolls…you refuse to address the question posed.

    You call me a troll and yet you’re always talking about this Dennison dude. Who the f is that? I’m assuming it’s Trump, but…who knows?

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  53. Raoul says:

    The media does seem to over complicate matters (or maybe they are defending their sinecures) but there is just very little to gain and certainly there is something to lose if Fox held some of the debates.

  54. Steve V says:

    On a daily basis, Fox argues that the country is undergoing a coup e’etat at the hands of the FBI and Robert Mueller. They need to lose whatever influence and respectability they have, not be given more.

  55. Matt says:
  56. An Interested Party says:

    In other news of the day, the NAACP refused to allow Stormfront to host a web discussion on race relations in the United States…a spokesman for the NAACP was asked why that decision was made and promptly told the questioner, “If you don’t know, I can’t help you…”

  57. Teve says:

    In 2016 the GOP had 12 primary debates. Zero were hosted by MSNBC. I don’t care.

  58. DrDaveT says:

    Evan Siegfried opined…

    and they are no different from opinion columnists like The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman and the New York Times’ Charles Blow, or MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow

    …which is of course the root of the bothsider problem, because Waldman and Blow and Hayes and Maddow actually care what is true. If shown reasonable evidence that what they have been saying is not true, they will change their minds. Publicly.

    Yes, they are all partisan columnists. That does not make them in any way equivalent. One side has actual reality on its side. This matters.

  59. de stijl says:

    Fox News is proto-state media a la Pravda or RT. That is utterly abhorrent.

    Anything that harms that idea and explicitly calls that out derides its influence is a good practice.

    (Arguably, Fox “captures” Trump more so than Trump has captured Fox. FNC drives much of this administration’s actions. Scary.)

    I am fairness and justice oriented, but they’re not even trying to be anything other than blatant shills. They have one or two folks that aren’t utterly in the bag, but FNC is basically the RT of the USA where all actions of the Republican Party are right, true, just, patriotic, and necessary. And all that oppose those actions are traitorous radicals bent on destruction.

    Granting FNC legitimacy is a very bad idea. They are utterly partisan, but want the privilege of an objective news source. They’ve chosen their master. Let them wallow.

  60. Tyrell says:

    @Steve V: What is going on is increasing control of the main stream news media. There are still some news sites that are reliable, stable, civil, and fair. This control will extend to the internet and communications systems.
    Some years ago the debates became scripted, rehearsed, and controlled.

  61. An Interested Party says:

    Rather than asking why Democrats are too “scared” to have a primary debate on Fox News, we should be asking why the president and his press secretary are so afraid of having formal briefings with the press…

  62. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Rather than asking why Democrats are too “scared” to have a primary debate on Fox News, we should be asking why the president and his press secretary are so afraid of having formal briefings with the press…

    It’s rather obvious. Trump’s a liar and he’s afraid of being called on it.

    This dynamic, of course, is definitely not possible with any Democrats, who are so honorable they wouldn’t lie about a thing or try to pull one over on people or seek friendly media outlets so they can escape scrutiny.

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  63. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Ayup….

    ETA: “I can handle it. But sometimes I just don’t feel like it.”

    Fortunately, not a single one of us is begging you for your views. You are in control of your own actions and their consequences.

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  64. James Pearce says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    You are in control of your own actions

    Indeed, I am.

  65. An Interested Party says:

    This dynamic, of course, is definitely not possible with any Democrats, who are so honorable they wouldn’t lie about a thing or try to pull one over on people or seek friendly media outlets so they can escape scrutiny.

    Nice strawman you have there…no one here has ever echoed that false narrative…for a supposed liberal, you certainly do carry a lot of water for conservatism, or what currently passes for conservatism in this country…