When Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez last week said Fox News “is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates, the network responded: “We hope the D.N.C. 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.”
Uh, duh. “Fairness” is precisely the problem.
Based on a review of events from the 2016 primary process, it’s pretty clear that the DNC is not concerned that Fox News won’t be fair, but that the Fox News moderator will be fair. And that could lead to unpredictable results for the insiders hoping to manage the end result of the Democratic primary as they successfully did in 2016.
Fox News was not among the media organizations that played ball with the DNC and Clinton’s successful campaign to box-out Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primary. Fair and neutral? What do you think they’re afraid of?
To illustrate, let’s return to a primary debate from almost two years ago:
Question: After my family, the city of Flint and the children in D.C. were poisoned by lead, will you make a personal promise to me right now that, as president, in your first 100 days in office, you will make it a requirement that all public water systems must remove all lead service lines throughout the entire United States, and notification made to the—the citizens that have said service lines.
On March 6, 2016, Hillary Clinton stood in the Whiting Auditorium in Flint, Michigan in a smart navy suit with white piping that looked a bit like a sailor outfit. She looked relaxed and confident standing next to Bernie Sanders who unnaturally swallowed his anger to affect a smile. Clinton had every reason to feel she possessed the advantage. The day before, Clinton campaign manager John Podesta received an email from Donna Brazile tipping off the campaign to a key local issue:
One of the questions directed to [Hillary Clinton] tomorrow is from a woman with a rash. Her family has lead poison [sic] and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary Clinton do as president to help the ppl of Flint.
Sanders was allowed to answer first and reflexively made a typical pie-in-the-sky promise to replace all the lead pipes in the country. Clinton was ready with an answer that topped him:
I want us to have an absolute commitment to getting rid of lead wherever it is because it’s not only in water systems, it’s also in soil, and it’s in lead paint that is found mostly in older homes. That’s why 500,000 children today have lead—lead in their bodies.
Flash forward to 2019 and an emerging field of Democratic candidates so big as to present logistical challenges during anticipated primary debates. Will Democrats replay the inside-baseball with a colluding news network moderating debates to favor a particular primary candidate? It appears history may be set to repeat itself.
A recent New Yorker article accused Fox News staffers and on-air personalities of having ties to the White House. Sean Hannity, for example, makes no secret of his politics regarding the president but he was never proposed as a moderator of any debate. Citing the New Yorker, the Democrats decided that Fox News could not be trusted to moderate a debate. That might seem like a reasonable objection to people with short memories.
People with long memories would remember how during the 2016 election, many of the pundits who appear on television to support Hillary Clinton actually had undisclosed financial ties (“consulting” arrangements, for example) either with the Clinton campaign directly or with one of the myriad allied PACs or affiliated corporations and other organizations. We can also remember that Donna Brazile’s leak was just one of many emails demonstrating coordination between the DNC and the press to make Clinton the nominee. One such email contained a list of reliable “surrogates,” within the media.
We have yet to learn the names of the three journalists Fusion GPS paid to help advance the Russian collusion hoax. Since Fusion GPS was also funded by the Clinton campaign and the DNC, it would be helpful to know if one of those same reporters ends up moderating the debates. Politico, CNBC, CNN, the Washington Post, all turned out to have worked with the Clinton campaign or the DNC to help her win the primaries.
Notably missing from that list: Fox News.
What does “fair” mean to the DNC? Because if the 2016 primary process is any guide, the DNC’s chief concern seemed to be that Democratic primary voters might stray from the candidate the DNC had already selected. In 2016, that was Clinton. And who might it be in 2020?
One clue might be a contribution made by Perkins Coie, the same firm that helped Clinton engineer the Russia hoax. Ensuring the primary process achieves the proper result in 2020 might again require news organizations who will play ball behind the scenes. Fox News simply cannot be relied upon to deliver such “fairness.”
Photo credit: George Frey/Getty Images