Gutsy John Edwards Jettisons a Second Fox-Sponsored Debate
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Showing striking leadership, presidential candidate John Edwards, encouraged by Black activists, Black bloggers and Jesse Jackson, dropped out of a scheduled debate for September to be sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and Fox News.
Edwards deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince explained to the AP, "there's just no reason for Democrats to give Fox a platform to advance the right-wing agenda while pretending they're objective." The Edwards campaign went out of its way to point out that Edwards planned to participate in a CBC debate hosted by CNN. The Democratic National Committee has also come out in opposition to the Fox debates, excluding them from the six debates they plan to sanction.
Edwards previously ditched a Fox debate planned for Nevada that was sponsored by the Nevada Democratic party and others. With Edwards out and significant pressure from MoveOn and a gaggle of persistent bloggers, the Nevada Democratic party decided to abandon the Nevada event, causing all sorts of screaming from Fox mouthpieces.
It's been a bit of a mystery as to why the CBC Institute, an offshoot of the Congressional Black Caucus, went ahead with the debates in the face of powerful evidence underscoring Fox's negative attitudes about Black people.
An Afro American Newspapers Editorial, printed in Black papers around the nation, read: "What were they thinking? What possible justification could the Congressional Black Caucus Political Leadership Education Institute have for picking Fox News to partner with on an upcoming presidential debate? 'Fox News is not a "fair and balanced" source of information or political debate, and it has repeatedly proven itself hostile to the interests of Black Americans.
There were other strong voices challenging the CBC Institute: "Why should we be legitimizing a network that calls Black churches a cult, implies that Senator Barack Obama is a terrorist, and uses the solemn occasion of Coretta Scott King's funeral to call Black leaders 'racist,'" said James Rucker, head of ColorOfChange.org "The CBC Institute's decision to embrace FOX was shamefully out of step with most Black voters."
ColorOfChange.org -- an online citizens' lobby of 75,000 members dedicated to advocating for the interests of Black Americans -- launched a national letter writing campaign calling on the Congressional Black Caucus Institute to reject Fox as partner for their presidential debates.
Fox's smears against the Black community are compiled in Outfoxed director Robert Greenwald's new YouTube video called Fox Attacks: Black America -- which is located at www.FoxAttacks.com and has been viewed by over 250,000 people in three weeks.
The public reasoning for the deal between the CBC and Fox, was expressed by Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chair of the CBC Institute "as a leading organization dedicated to educating the public on issues of national policy, the CBC Institute is committed to presenting the presidential candidates to the broadest audience possible." Thompson added, "Our goal with each debate is to provide a platform that will allow voters to hear the positions of candidates from both political parties. Collaborating with FOX News provides an opportunity to take this presidential election to millions of households."
Perhaps the loyalty to Fox by the CBC, more than reaching those households, was connected to their role as a key funder of the CBC Institute. News Corp, Fox's parent, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has been a heavy funder of the CBC Institute According to filed reports, Fox News gave $10,000 to $24,999 to the CBC in 2005, while News Corp. gave an additional $15,000 to $29,000. Between 2003 and 2005, FNC and News Corp. donated $47,500 to $98,998.
In an parallel development, the blog href="jackandjillpolitics.blogspot.com">Jack and Jill Politics offers that Black America will in the end not being represented by the CBC Institute in presidential debates, but rather in this instance, but by Tavis Smiley. From Jack and Jill Politics:
"There's a whole other layer of activity here to consider. The reason the DNC is able to backslap the CBC's ill-considered partnership with racist "news" network Fox is because there is a rival Democratic debate being run through PBS with emerging black leader Tavis Smiley at the helm." ... PBS is a network accessible to all (as opposed to Fox on cable) The debates will take place at two historically black colleges bringing much appreciated attention and resources to these HBCU communities.
Tavis Smiley is leading the way to show there are plenty of other venues than Fox News for primary debates, and John Edwards is again showing some spine. Now it's up to the rest of the Democratic Candidates to follow his lead.
Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.