There’s still no official word from the Democratic National Committee on whether it’s willing to team up with Fox News and let Rupert Murdoch’s channel host a coveted primary season debate among Democratic candidates. Fox News has been locked out of Democratic debates for 15 years, and desperately wants back in the game. Meanwhile, DNC chairman Tom Perez appeared to suggest that the right-wing outlet remained in the running.
Granting Fox News legitimacy in the form of letting it present a Democratic debate remains a spectacularly bad idea, and lots of Democratic voters agree. The move would mark a clear surrender in the recent progressive push to neutralize Fox News as a dangerous propaganda outlet.
The road to any possible Fox News Democratic debate appeared to get even narrower this week after the New Yorker published a blockbuster investigative piece into the network’s wildly unethical and deeply political behavior.
Among the disclosures, reporter Jane Mayer revealed that Fox News sat on a stunning scoop weeks before the 2016 election about Trump’s now-famous hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The reporter was allegedly told by her Fox News boss, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” Additionally, Trump tried to get the Department of Justice to prevent AT&T from acquiring CNN’s parent company, Time Warner.
The piece also reminded readers that Fox News’s former boss, Bill Shine, is still getting paid by Murdoch while working as one of Trump’s top advisers in the White House.
Since the New Yorker piece made it abundantly clear that Fox News doesn’t practice journalism, there’s no reason for the DNC to team up with the network to host a debate. But perhaps the more pressing question facing Democratic Party officials is: If they gave Fox News a debate to host, would Democratic candidates actually show up for the event? My hunch is that most would not.
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.
That Fox News blackout for Democratic primary debates has been in place ever since, and it would seem absurd to change that, especially given the network’s truly radical turn in recent years.
One reason the 2007 debate was nixed was because candidates started dropping out. Once the grassroots movement to protest Fox News began, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards announced amid the discord that he was skipping the Murdoch-sponsored debate. Behind the scenes, pressure likely mounted on the other candidates to also skip the event. Before they were forced to decide, the party pulled the plug on the doomed event.
And that was during the 2008 campaign season when Democratic candidates leaned more toward the political center. What are the odds today that Democratic candidates running for office, who are anxious to connect with party activists (who have moved to the left in recent years), would concede to a Fox News debate? The chances of convincing them to enter a Fox News studio during the Democratic primary season, and especially in light of the blockbuster New Yorker report, are quite slim. Why would they, and what would the benefit be? What Democratic candidate, facing anger among the party base, is going to take a stand in favor of Fox News? I can’t think of many.
If the DNC did announce a Fox News debate, which would be widely condemned by party activists, I could certainly envision Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris or a host of other candidates making this type of announcement: “While I respect the DNC’s oversight of the Democratic primary debates, I will not be participating in the debate being presented by Fox News. I am not afraid of Fox News and I’m not afraid of answering legitimate campaign questions from anyone. But I am also not willing to bestow an air of legitimacy to one of Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets that functions as an arm of the Trump administration, and toils more in propaganda than it does journalism. I urge my fellow candidates to join me.”
In a way, it’s likely Democratic candidates have already made the decision about any possible Fox News debate. We’re all just waiting on the DNC to make it official.