Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: DNC must reconsider barring Fox News from hosting a Democratic presidential primary debate

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders participated in a Fox News town hall, which was moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, on Monday. The event garnered almost 2.6 million viewers.

This has reinvigorated the debate over whether Democratic politicians should appear on Fox News. There’s a simple answer: yes.

Sanders, during his town hall, was able to frame democratic socialism in his own words: as a way to make the government, economy and society work for all Americans — not just the top 1 percent of us.  

After Sanders answered an audience question in relation to his health care proposal, Baier then asked the audience if they would support transitioning from their private sector health care to Medicare-for-all. Perhaps to Baier’s surprise, most of the audience raised a hand.

Last month, the Democratic National Committee decided to prohibit Fox News from hosting a Democratic presidential primary debate.

DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement to The Washington Post that an “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.”

Democrats should be concerned about Fox News’ blatant lack of objectivity, but at the same time, that makes it even more important they appear on the network. Fox News employs many extremely biased characters, such as quasi-Trump advisor Sean Hannity. There is, it could be said, a revolving door between Fox News contributors and White House staffers.

This means Democrats need to reach the viewers who consistently get their “news” from a right-leaning, Trump-supporting media source. Fox News viewers should be able to hear Democrats’ words from Democrats themselves, not from the lips of subjective reports who cherry-pick information.

Fox News should be able to host Democratic presidential primary debates. Many regular Fox viewers may never change the channel to CNN or MSNBC to view these debates, meaning they will miss out on the conversations taking place within the Democratic party.  

Some Democratic presidential candidates are rebuffing the DNC by showing an openness to appear on Fox News. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar will have a Fox News town hall next month. Moreover, Pete Buttigieg — mayor of South Bend, Indiana — and U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell have expressed interest in a town hall on the network, as well.

In 2016, Democrats largely ignored the network, but during the 2020 election cycle that hesitancy has seemed reduced so far. Buttigieg was interviewed on “Fox News Sunday” in March, and about 2.4 million viewers saw Baier interview Klobuchar in February.

The DNC should not be restricting the media sources on which its candidates are seen and heard. At a debate or town hall, Democrats are able to speak for themselves and express their ideology and vision for their country.

The DNC can choose to reject Fox News, but this won’t prevent the network from reporting on Democratic candidates. Democrats don’t gain anything from avoiding the network, but rather, they lose the opportunity to speak directly to Fox News viewers themselves.

Moreover, this move only fuels the perception Democrats are elitist and too good for “average” Americans. Shutting people out is not the solution. Therefore, it’s clear that Perez must reconsider Fox News as a debate host. No party can ignore the millions of viewers who choose Fox News as their primary source of information.

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