The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Bernie’s smart move to do a Fox News town hall

UPI Photo
 The Democratic National Committee needs to seriously reconsider its decision not to have any of its many primary debates on Fox News.
This isn’t a matter of ideology but simple raw numbers that make the case quite clearly. 

{mosads}Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) participated in a CNN town hall this week that attracted just 491,000 viewers during primetime. Gillibrand drew the least viewers of any the 2020 presidential hopefuls who have done CNN town halls. 

Comparatively, on the same night in the same time slot, Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” attracted 2.38 million total viewers to win the hour, while MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” was second for the time slot with 1.86 million viewers.
Among the 25-54 demographic advertisers covet most, Fox News’s Ingraham was first with 434,000 viewers, followed by O’Donnell with 300,000. CNN finished with 115,000 viewers in the category, the lowest total of 2019 at that hour among the three major cable news networks. 
Numbers mean little without context, so consider this: When Fox News anchor Bret Baier interviewed Gillibrand a few weeks ago, the interview was seen by 2.1 million viewers. It drew more than quadruple the number of viewers who saw Gillibrand on CNN, despite airing before primetime (6 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. PT).
That’s not to say candidates shouldn’t appear on CNN town halls. Of course, all candidates should consider an hour of primetime TV on a national stage. There’s also the fact there are more than a dozen candidates on the Democratic side — and growing. Standing out from the pack is essential to having anything resembling a chance in the primaries. 
DNC Chairman Tom Perez isn’t budging from his original assertion, however, that somehow the party candidates won’t get a fair shake on Fox News because some of its hosts are reportedly close to President Trump. 
“What we have seen … is that at the highest levels of Fox News they’re not playing it straight,” Perez told MSNBC.
Based on Perez’s comments, you’d think hosts like Sean Hannity or Jeanine Pirro — both unapologetic and staunch supporters of the president — would be moderating a Democratic debate. But these events would obviously be moderated by those who work in the network’s news division. 
“Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace — who was arguably the most prepared, fair and measured moderator of any of the presidential debates in 2016 — would likely be the one asking Democratic candidates the questions. Baier would likely also be chosen for the job based on his 2016 debate performance.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), seems to understand what it means to reach out to all voters. And all voters includes Trump voters, even some who voted for the Republican in 2016, after casting their ballots for Sanders in the primary. Remember the states that secured the presidency for Trump were Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — a total of 77,000 votes combined. If that blue wall stayed blue, we’d be looking at a Clinton administration right now. 
“For better or for worse — and it is for worse — for whatever reason, you know, Fox has a huge viewing audience,” Sanders said Tuesday. “And to simply say that we’re not going to talk to millions of people who watch that network — I don’t think is smart.”
Keep in mind, Sanders won Wisconsin by 13 points over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary. In Michigan, despite polls going into that state’s primary showing him trailing by more than 20 points, the self-described Democratic socialist pulled off the upset. To reach those voters who went for Trump or sat out in 2016, a winning Democratic candidate will need to do more than appear on CNN and MSNBC. 

A Pew Research study released Sept. 2017 showed that 10 percent of Fox News viewers identified as liberal Democrats. Another 43 percent of Fox’s audience identified as conservative Republicans — meaning 47 percent don’t identify as liberal Democrats or Republicans.

Those voters could make a difference in the former blue wall of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan — as well as the key states of Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, New Hampshire, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and perhaps even states like Georgia and Missouri.

{mossecondads}The Sanders town hall on Fox News on April 15 will likely draw millions of viewers. Other Democratic candidates will see the numbers, and more importantly, see the press generated from a Democratic candidate being asked questions that few hosts are asking on other networks. 

Sanders is a capable, candid candidate with lots of experience on these kinds of stages, including a Fox News town hall in 2016. Sanders will probably show the town hall is only a good thing in three regards: Showing the ability to answer hard questions, standing above the crowd and being seen by a bigger audience — including plenty of potential voters unhappy or apathetic with the current occupant in the Oval Office. 
Joe Concha is a media reporter for The Hill and co-host of “WOR Tonight with Joe Concha and Lis Wiehl” weeknights on 710-WOR in New York. Follow him on Twitter @JoeConchaTV.
Tags 2020 Democratic presidential candidates 2020 primaries Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Fox News Hillary Clinton Joe Concha Kirsten Gillibrand Tom Perez

More Campaign News

See All

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video