Democrats Cancel FNC Presidential Debate, But All Candidates Joined FNC Debate in 2003
Under pressure from radical-left activists at MoveOn.org and bloggers like the Daily Kos, the Nevada Democratic Party pulled the rug out from under the Fox News Channel on Friday, canceling a planned presidential debate that had been scheduled for August 14, Politico.com reported. MoveOn launched a petition drive that it said was signed by more than 260,000 people, arguing “Fox is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel. The Democratic Party of Nevada should drop Fox as its partner for the presidential primary debate.” The group's Eli Pariser also called FNC part of the "right-wing smear machine."
The decision represents a dramatic shift leftward from the presidential cycle four years ago. On September 9, 2003, all nine Democratic candidates went to Baltimore to participate in a debate sponsored by FNC and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. Dick Gephardt and Dennis Kucinich even missed a close school-voucher House vote for the event. Brit Hume was the moderator, and the panel had three black liberals: NPR's Juan Williams, Ed Gordon (formerly of NBC and BET), and former Newsweek writer (and current NPR host) Farai Chideya. As you can see from the transcript, Hume asked no questions to the candidates, aside from asking Howard Dean what his lapel pin said.
A New York Times politics blog quotes the letter to FNC from Nevada Democrats, citing the offense of FNC boss Roger Ailes making a joke about President Bush confusing Obama for Osama. (It's a dumb-Bush joke, and Democrats object. And don't they know CNN has confused the names twice?) Kate Phillips also quoted the FNC response from VP David Rhodes, which is pretty feisty:
News organizations will want to think twice before getting involved in the Nevada Democratic Caucus which appears to be controlled by radical fringe out-of-state interest groups, not the Nevada Democratic Party. In the past, MoveOn.org has said they ‘own’ the Democratic Party - while most Democrats don’t agree with that, it’s clearly the case in Nevada.
The Democrats are now saying that an established, 10-year-old cable news channel, the number one cable news channel in most hours, does not qualify as an honest broker of Democratic debates. Can you imagine the Republicans saying they wouldn't hold a debate with a liberal network? They'd be left with FNC and C-SPAN and perhaps local cable access in Aurora, Illinois. How many debates have Republicans accepted liberal moderators, not only in presidential debates, but in congressional and gubernatorial debates with Russert, Stephanopoulos, and so on? Conservatives haven't exactly organized web campaigns to protest that stacked deck.