Congress

DNC chair explains why the party won’t host a Fox News primary debate

‘At the highest levels of Fox News they're not playing it straight,’ DNC Chair Tom Perez said

DNC Chair Thomas Perez said this week Fox News wont host any of the party's primary debates. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

The chairman of the Democratic Party’s campaign arm explained in a television interview Wednesday that its decision to exclude Fox News from its primary debates was a reluctant one.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez announced Wednesday the party would reject a request by Fox News to host a primary debate. The decision comes after a recent report by The New Yorker describing a seamless relationship between the network and the Republican White House. 

“There have been two North Stars as we’ve been preparing for these debates,” Perez said Wednedsay night in an interview with MSNBC.

“Number one: I want to make sure that as many people as possible see our candidates, because I believe our views, our vision commands the respect of the majority of the American people, including people who watch Fox News.”

“Republicans, Democrats, Independents have preexisting conditions and believe that they ought to be able to keep their health care including people who watch Fox News,” Perez continued, naming a key campaign issue during the 2018 midterms that leaders in both parties acknowledged helped Democrats win over moderate districts.

“Our second North Star principle in preparing for these debates is to make sure whichever network airs them ensures that our candidates are being treated fairly ... But what we have seen, most recently in the New Yorker story, is that at the highest levels of Fox News they're not playing it straight,” Perez said.

Some observers have noted that the network’s nearly unbroken streak of flattering coverage of Trump has been long understood. 

“Did you really need to be tipped over by the Jane Mayer reporting? Is that what did it?” asked MSNBC host Chris Hayes asked Perez Wednesday.

Hayes referenced years of pressure from Democratic activists on party leaders urging them to exclude the conservative network from debates.

The DNC announcement came after the New Yorker detailed previously unknown ways Fox News boosted Trump

Most notably, during the 2016 election, a reporter for Fox News uncovered the president’s payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels. But the story was reportedly trashed under pressure from an executive who told the reporter— “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go” — a  reference to network owner and conservative media magnate Rupert Murdoch. 

The bond between Trump and the cable news network has strengthened since Bill Shine, a former Fox executive, became director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House last summer, according to the New Yorker report. 

“I believe that a key pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach all voters.That is why I have made it a priority to talk to a broad array of potential media partners, including Fox News.” Perez said in a statement to the Washington Post Wednesday.

“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.”

The tiff recalls a 2015 conflict between the Republican National Committee and NBC News.  

Reince Priebus, then the party’s chairman, sent a letter to network executives suspending their partnership ahead of a scheduled Republican primary debate in opposition to what he described as “gotcha” questions directed at Republican candidates by its sister network CNBC.

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