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DNC decision to shut out Fox News hurts Democratic candidates and Americans

Greg Nash

I had just arrived in Bettendorf, Iowa, for a speech to Women Lead Change. Suddenly, it became a very important speech: A nice woman was introducing me as a Fox News anchor who had moderated a town hall on immigration in Arizona, the only network journalist to sit down with the Democratic and Republican candidates for Senate ahead of the midterms — all as news broke that Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez had stripped Fox News of any chance to host his party’s presidential primary debates.

An entire network of journalists was being thwarted from the political process. And my 25-year commitment to open, fair debate, which I moderate across two shows on Fox News, was being cast in doubt.

I’m issuing a call to action from others in the media — just like when Fox News insisted that all journalists with press credentials be included at White House press briefings, after CNN reporter Jim Acosta was tossed out for displeasing President Trump, or when we publicly backed White House correspondent Kaitlin Collins when she was shut out of an open press event in the Rose Garden. The very network that Chairman Perez is skewering now, came to the defense of our colleagues at CNN.{mosads}

My father, a Vietnam War pilot, used to tell me that the only really bad decisions are the ones you stick to even when you get facts that support a change in the mission. Lt. Col. Bobby Harris recalled our heroes getting shot at because making a course correction was sometimes rejected out of ego. I wrote about those wartime lessons in my 2018 book, “9 Rules of Engagement: A Military Brat’s Guide to Life and Success.”

I want to focus on one of those rules, Rule No. 1: Recruit your special forces. That means, choose people you trust to help you achieve victory. Maybe that’s what Mr. Perez is doing, by choosing networks whose opinion hosts lean left. But I’d further posit that those candidates on the left need to decide if his decision helps them win and whether he truly has their backs.

When Chairman Perez announced last week, “I believe that the key pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach all voters,” it was indeed a noble mission. That’s exactly why I invite and interview so many Democrats on my show — because I want to expand the audience and reach everyone with good, spirited debate.

Yet, that was not Chairman Perez’s true mission. He then announced: “Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.” Mr. Perez is promising Democrats a giant viewership solely via our competitors. In fact, our competitors don’t consistently have the biggest audiences to reach all voters. And while they have talented journalists, just like we do, they also have an opinion team: We have Hannity, they have Maddow. Most newspapers have this dual approach to disseminating news and opinion, too — a front page with hard news headlines, and an editorial section.

In reality, Perez is standing between the Democratic candidates and Fox News’ dizzying reach, across what looks like 12 primary debates.

Here are some numbers to consider: In 2016, an average of 2.6 million people watched Fox News’ first Democratic town hall of that presidential election cycle. My colleague Bret Baier hosted that evening with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). That town hall had more viewers than CNN (877K) and MSNBC (555K) combined in the hour.

Why wouldn’t the DNC want to have it all? Fox News, CNN, MSNBC … everybody should want to sit with every outlet that can spotlight their reason for wanting to lead this great nation.{mossecondads}

It’s happened before on a smaller scale. The RNC pulled out of an NBC News debate when former chairman Reince Priebus thought the CNBC hosts (not under the news division, I might add) reportedly had a poor, unfair, partisan showing with Republican candidates on Oct. 28, 2015. That was just one debate. With Perez, we are talking an entire election season barring Fox News. All the while, his party’s candidates are trying to pull off a historically uncommon defeat of an incumbent president. So, Perez’s idea to grow the DNC’s reach is to make sure the men and women running for president won’t be seen on a network with raptor-like force and reach in the jungle of politics. Do you think that limits voters’ access to the Democratic candidates?

And about journalism and the Constitution: Is DNC Chairman Perez engaging in any form of stifling the press? I have this same issue with President Trump, who persists on calling members of the media the “enemies of the people.” He’s wrong, and so is Perez. 

As I write this, there are only two reports of Democratic candidates speaking up about missing out on a huge stage with people who might vote in ways we cannot fully predict — Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Perhaps they understand that journalists would be moderating our debates, as it’s been at Fox News since its inception. I’ve interviewed nearly half of Congress, bipartisan every step of the way. We debate fiercely at times over the facts but always end with a warm welcome to return to Fox News. This is true diversity — and I don’t just mean me being the only black female anchor with a show Monday thru Friday. I mean diversity of perspective, thought and approach.

Dozens of Democrats appear on Fox News each month. If it were not worth their time and energy to debate, converse and display their experience and governing styles to millions of voters who happen to watch Fox News, wouldn’t they all just line up at others’ broadcast booths on Capitol Hill? Mr. Perez’s fellow Democrats seem to acknowledge what I know for sure: Americans are shrewd, hopeful, educated and busy. They want to feel confident that every voice is weighing in when and where they tune in. That’s the premise of what Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Chris Wallace, me and many others on Fox News put into motion on our news hours, and especially in our debates.

Candidates seeking the highest office in our government deserve the opportunity to be fully heard. I would say to Chairman Perez: You apparently have little faith in Democratic candidates’ abilities to answer tough questions before voters of all viewpoints. You hurl disrespect at the process of a free press hosting debates to allow Americans every opportunity to make an informed decision. Further, you apparently don’t trust that expanded electorate, of which you spoke, to make informed decisions. It is well documented that Fox News has the audience demographics that other networks thirst for. Don’t they deserve to see every candidate step on the biggest stage with award-winning journalists?

Perez’s decision is damaging to the process, the voters and his own candidates — especially considering how many people identify as political independents. I’m hoping he will sharpen his awareness and change course to be more inclusive.

Harris Faulkner is an Emmy Award-winning journalist. She co-hosts “Outnumbered” (weekdays 12-1pm/ET) and anchors “Outnumbered Overtime” (weekdays 1-2pm/ET) on Fox News Channel.

Tags Bernie Sanders Democratic Party presidential debates and forums DNC Donald Trump Fox News Hillary Clinton John Delaney Kirsten Gillibrand Reince Priebus Television news in the United States Tom Perez Tom Perez

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