The Democratic Party Won't Let Fox News Host a Presidential Primary Debate

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez -Getty-H 2019
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Fox News hosts and prominent conservatives had been urging the Democratic National Committee to let the network host a debate.

The Democratic National Committee will not let the Fox News network host one of the 12 sanctioned primary debates leading up the 2020 presidential election. 

The decision was announced by chairman Tom Perez on Wednesday, a day after The New Yorker published a lengthy story about the cozy relationship between the network's opinion hosts and the Trump administration.

"I believe that a key pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach all voters," Perez said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "That is why I have made it a priority to talk to a broad array of potential media partners, including Fox News. 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. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates."

Prominent conservatives, along with the network's hosts, had been urging the DNC to award Fox News one of the 10 debates that have not yet been assigned. NBC News/MSNBC and CNN will host the first two debates.

"I think it's ridiculous," former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum told THR when asked about the DNC's unwillingness to partner with Fox News. "This is part of the whole idea that we only want to play with people who agree with us. That's a very bad sign for democracy."

Wednesday's announcement will surely please the progressive activists that have been urging the DNC to boycott Fox News. "I will go to war with DNC if they do this," Media Matters for America president Angelo Carusone said. "And, I bet I won’t be alone."

In response to Wednesday's announcement, Fox News' Washington managing editor Bill Sammon said in a statement: "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. 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.”

Sammon had previously made the case to The Washington Post about what the network could offer. "We submitted a very persuasive proposal, laying out our arguments for why Fox would be an ideal host,” he said. “One thing we offer is recent experience with a large field of candidates. We've been through all of the logistical challenges that come with an unwieldy group of diverse candidates, because we did it in 2016. We put ideas in there that we saw when the DNC released its public framework, like when they said they would not do an 'undercard' and a main event and would instead do two nights in a row.” 

Baier responded to the snub on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon. "That’s really a shame," he wrote. "When it comes to fairness - our news product speaks for itself. We will continue to cover this 2020 race fairly & will continue to invite Democrats- Republicans & Independents on to talk about key issues & substance with our very large viewing audience."

MacCallum also weighed in. "Our large audience deserves to hear ALL the candidates who are running for the Presidency of the United States," she wrote on Twitter. "We welcome them all, with our continued commitment to fair, professional journalism. I hope the #DNC will reconsider this decision."

John Delaney, a former congressman who is running a long-shot campaign for president, seemed to take issue with the DNC's decision. "As a matter of politics, Democratic candidates should campaign everywhere and that included talking to voters who watch Fox News," he told THR in an email.