Why Democrats should ensure Fox News has no part of hosting 2020 presidential debates

Why Democrats should ensure Fox News has no part of hosting 2020 presidential debates

If the Democratic National Committee is actually toying with the idea of allowing Fox News to host upcoming candidate debates, internal discussions should stop now. It's a terrible proposal.


While appearing on Fox News last month, DNC chairman Tom Perez appeared toexpress a willingness to have the right-wing cable network host one of the Democratic primary debates. “Absolutely we’re having discussions with Fox and others,” Perez told anchor Brett Baier, who responded that he was “happy to hear that.”

We’ll find out in coming weeks whether Perez is serious about Fox News landing a DNC debate, or if his comment was more of a throwaway line during a live TV interview. But this whole question should be a no-brainer for the DNC: There are no circumstances under which it would be okay for the Democratic Party to partner with an outlet like Fox News to help voters pick the party's next nominee.

It's really unthinkable, and it would mark a clear surrender in the Democratic push in recent years to try to neutralize Fox News as a dangerous propaganda outlet.

The history: Back in 2007, after Fox News tried to smear then-candidate Barack Obama for purportedly attending a radical Muslim school as a child, liberal bloggers launched an initiative to get Democratic candidates to boycott a debate co-sponsored by Fox News and the Nevada Democratic Party. The local party soon canceled its plans with Rupert Murdoch's network. The boycott, powered by Foxattacks.com, was then extended to all debates during the 2008 primary season.

Eight years later, the Fox News debate blackout extended through the Democrats’ 2016 primary cycle. The idea of now making a U-turn for the 2020 election season makes no sense. Does anybody think that, since 2016, Fox News has somehow become more deserving of hosting Democratic debates?

Good lord, no.

During Trump's presidency, the network has only managed to sink further into the sewer, becoming a truly tasteless outpost of white nationalism, anti-Democratic Party smears, and xenophobia, all delivered by Trump sycophants.

Make no mistake: Denying Fox News access to debates is a big deal for the network programming-wise, and sends an important message that Democrats don't acknowledge it as a serious news player.

With few GOP presidential challengers expected to step forward in 2020, the Republican Party primary season could be nonexistent. That means if the DNC snubs Fox News, it would be entirely locked out of hosting any debates for that primary season. That would be a painful setback in terms of pride. It would also mean the network would be denied the key ratings gains that go along with hosting a debate.

Perhaps you can already hear the defenders, especially among Beltway insiders who have been excusing the network's behavior for years: “Fox News’ primetime opinion shows are totally different from the news programs, and Democrats shouldn't punish the hardworking newsrooms.” Fact: One week before Election Day in 2016, Baier, who as Fox News' nightly news anchor is supposed to represent how serious and nonpartisan the network can be, falsely reported on the air that Hillary Clinton was"likely" going to be indicted over supposedly scandalous behavior connected to the Clinton Foundation. So thanks but no thanks when it comes to the spin that Fox's “real news” anchors are worthy of trust from Democrats.

Meanwhile, the habitual argument that Democrats can effectively reach voters via Fox News is just not believable anymore. There may have been a time many years ago when Fox News' audience was made up of moderates and a sizable contingent of Democrats. But those days are now long gone, as the channel has unapologetically positioned itself as a MAGA outlet, and little else. And if Democratic candidates are trying to reach their own party's most passionate, dynamic voters during the primary season, there's probably not a less likely place to find those activists than watching Fox News.

Lastly, there's a very specific reason today why the DNC should, under no circumstances, partner with Fox News—and that's the memory of Seth Rich. In the summer of 2016, Rich was murdered in Washington, D.C., the apparent victim of a robbery attempt. Rich was 27 and worked for the DNC. Within weeks, right-wing nutjobs began brewing the evidence-free conspiracy theory that Rich had been the source of leaked DNC emails that were published by WikiLeaks, with the dark suggestion being that Democratic insiders (Hillary Clinton?) had Rich killed because of the role that he had played in the email scandal.

All of the claims were completely fabricated, and all of the claims produced unimaginable pain for the Rich family.

Then Fox News got involved. Multiple personalities pushed wild tales about Rich's murder. Finally, Rich's parents took legal action to try to stop Fox News' heartless behavior. "We lost his body the first time, and the second time we lost his soul," Mary Rich told ABC News. "They took more from us with the lies, so we want our son's life and his soul restored, and I want our life back so we can move forward again."

Can you imagine being Seth Rich's mother and father, knowing that Fox News dragged your son's name through the mud and toyed with his death for attempted partisan gain—your son who worked for the DNC!—and then watching Fox News being given the honor and privilege of hosting a DNC debate?

So, Democrats: Just don't go there.

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