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"Inappropriate relationship" with Trump just cost Fox News a presidential debate, DNC says

Fox News won’t be hosting a debate among Democratic presidential candidates this election cycle.

by Emma Ockerman
Mar 6 2019, 8:37pm

Fox News won’t be hosting a debate among Democratic presidential candidates this election cycle, the Democratic National Committee said Wednesday.

Democrats and Fox News didn’t have the coziest relationship before, but Fox News’ deep ties to the White House — detailed in a New Yorker article this week — have strained the right-leaning network’s ability to hold a neutral debate, DNC Chairman Tom Perez told the Washington Post.

“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,” Perez said.

The New Yorker article characterizes Fox News as propaganda for President Trump and notes that Bill Shine, the network’s former co-president, became White House deputy director of communications in July 2018.

For example, the story alleges that Roger Ailes, the network’s former chief executive, gave Trump’s campaign a heads-up about a 2015 debate question from Megyn Kelly regarding his derogatory comments about women. A Fox News reporter also allegedly knew and was attempting to report on Trump’s alleged affair with Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election — until network officials killed the story.

The article also notes that Sean Hannity, the Fox News host who has interviewed the president several times, once joined the president on stage at a campaign rally and reportedly provides him with advice.

Fox editors have said the story regarding Daniels wasn't killed to protect Trump but rather wasn't published because it didn't meet editorial standards. And Kelly has denied Trump's campaign had access to any debate questions.

The DNC plans to host 12 debates during the 2020 primary, the first to be held in June. Fox News, the most-watched cable TV network in 2018, submitted proposals to the DNC to televise at least one, according to the Post. The network hosted one Democratic primary debate in 2016.

In a statement to the Post, the network’s senior vice president, Bill Sammon, criticized the DNC’s move and noted the “journalistic integrity” of Fox News anchors who would host the debate. “We hope the DNC will reconsider its decision to bar Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, all of whom embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism, from moderating a Democratic presidential debate," he said. "They’re the best debate team in the business, and they offer candidates an important opportunity to make their case to the largest TV news audience in America, which includes many persuadable voters.”

The New Yorker report comes at a time when Fox News is trying to promote its less-inflammatory anchors like Wallace, Baier, and MacCallum for advertising purposes, according to Variety. While the network’s conservative-leaning opinion programming is popular, it’s also caused some advertisers to pull spots from Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham’s shows amid protest from advocacy groups.

Cover image: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shakes hands with moderator Chris Wallace, of Fox News, after the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (Mark Ralston/Pool via AP)