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Should Democrats Refuse to Appear on Fox News?

Elizabeth Warren says she declined an invitation to appear on the network she described as a “hate-for-profit racket.” Not all Democrats are on board with a boycott

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks to local residents during an organizing event, in Ames, IowaElection 2020 Elizabeth Warren, Ames, USA - 03 May 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks to local residents during an organizing event, in Ames, Iowa on May 3rd 2019

Charlie Neibergall/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Related: 2020 Democratic Primary Leaderboard

On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced she had turned down an invitation from Fox News to appear in a town hall event. She explained her reasoning in a Twitter thread, calling the network a “hate-for-profit racket,” and that she doesn’t want to “ask millions of Democratic primary voters to tune into an outlet that profits from racism and hate.”

Here’s the entirety of what she had to say:

“I love town halls. I’ve done more than 70 since January, and I’m glad to have a television audience be a part of them. Fox News has invited me to do a town hall, but I’m turning them down—here’s why. Fox News is a hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists—it’s designed to turn us against each other, risking life and death consequences, to provide cover for the corruption that’s rotting our government and hollowing out our middle class. Hate-for-profit works only if there’s profit, so Fox News balances a mix of bigotry, racism, and outright lies with enough legit journalism to make the claim to advertisers that it’s a reputable news outlet. It’s all about dragging in ad money—big ad money. But Fox News is struggling as more and more advertisers pull out of their hate-filled space. A Democratic town hall gives the Fox News sales team a way to tell potential sponsors it’s safe to buy ads on Fox—no harm to their brand or reputation (spoiler: It’s not). Here’s one place we can fight back: I won’t ask millions of Democratic primary voters to tune into an outlet that profits from racism and hate in order to see our candidates—especially when Fox will make even more money adding our valuable audience to their ratings numbers. I’m running a campaign to reach all Americans. I take questions from the press and voters everywhere I go. I’ve already held town halls in 17 states and Puerto Rico—including WV, OH, GA, UT, TN, TX, CO, MS & AL. I’ve done 57 media avails and 131 interviews, taking over 1,100 questions from press just since January. Fox News is welcome to come to my events just like any other outlet. But a Fox News town hall adds money to the hate-for-profit machine. To which I say: hard pass.”

Media Matters, a media watchdog responsible for some some of the advertising dollars Fox News has lost, praised Warren’s decision.

“Leaders, especially Democratic leaders, should at least be willing to draw the same line that many major corporations have drawn and reject the extremism and bigotry of Fox News,” the organization’s president, Angelo Carusone, said in a statement. “At minimum, they certainly should not help Fox News avoid accountability by allowing the network to exploit a town hall partnership in an effort to convince advertisers that it’s safe to come back in the water. I understand the need to communicate with a wide audience. But there are other ways to reach conservatives — and they don’t require leaders to enable Fox News’ bigotry and lies.”

Not every Democratic candidate shares Warren’s belief. Fellow progressive Bernie Sanders appeared in a town hall event hosted by the network last month. The independent senator was able successfully able to counter challenges from hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacAllum, drawing steady applause from the audience. The appearance also seemed to get under the skin of President Trump, who bashed Baier and criticized Fox News. It was the highest-rated town hall of the 2020 primary, with 2.5 million viewers tuning in to watch Sanders. Fox News even took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post to promote the ratings.

Sanders defended the appearance on The Daily Show earlier in April. “To me, it is important to distinguish Fox News from the many millions of people who watch Fox News,”he said. “I think it is important to talk to Trump supporters and explain to them to what degree he has betrayed the working class of this country and lied during his campaign.”

Following Sanders’ town hall, several other prominent Democratic candidates expressed interest in appearing on the network. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) did so last week at a similar town hall event. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are both scheduled to do them. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Rep. Julián Castro (D-TX) have all said they are interested, if not that they are already in talks with the network. Andrew Yang volunteered himself on Twitter the same day of Sanders’ appearance. “For what it’s worth I’d be happy to do a Town Hall on @FoxNews or @MSNBC,” he tweeted. “Or just about any other platform that would reach a large number of Americans. The whole point is to reach as many Americans as possible.”

Though Democratic candidates may see Fox News as a tool to reach a different portion of the electorate, the Democratic National Committee isn’t keen on involving the network in the its primary. In March, the DNC announced it will not allow the network to host any of the Democratic debates leading up to the 2020 election. “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,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement. “Therefore, FOX News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.”

The next Democrat to appear on Fox News will be Buttigieg, who is slated to participate in a town hall event hosted by the network on Sunday in Claremont, New Hampshire. “Pete’s been clear throughout this campaign that he plans to meet voters where they are,” Chris Meagher, a spokesman for Buttigieg, said in a statement provided to Rolling Stone. “It doesn’t do us any favors to communicate within partisan silos, and you will see him go on a wide variety of news outlets and platforms because he respects and wants to communicate with voters—no matter their preferred news source.”

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