I’ve seen a lot of journalists complaining that the DNC is somehow showing fear, or unwillingness to take tough questions or even some hostility to press freedom by rejecting a 2020 primary debate with Fox News. This is silly. Some non-journalists seem to be confused about the difference between access and debate sponsorship. But journalists know this difference. So they’re being silly.
Hosting a debate is not access. It’s an institutional collaboration between a political organization and a news organization. Fox News has a number of journalists who are good journalists on their own. But as an organization Fox exists as and is run to damage Democrats. We’ve seen new evidence of this this week from Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, killing a story one of its reporters already had because it might be damaging to President Trump. But we already knew this was the case.
The idea that the Democratic party would partner with such an organization to run a debate is frankly bizarre. Why not choose the Wisconsin GOP to host one? Or perhaps a better analogy would be American Crossroads, the GOP SuperPac founded by Karl Rove.
The analogy isn’t as off as you might think. Fox isn’t even just an ideological news organization. A news organization can have a strong editorial line and still follow basic journalistic principles in its coverage, the first of which being fundamental honestly with its viewers. Fox News does not do that. Remember, I’m not talking about individual journalists. For clarity, this doesn’t mean not allow Fox journalists to cover a debate or the campaign on the same terms as reporters from other news organizations. It doesn’t even mean rejecting individuals simply because they work at Fox. Chris Wallace is a good journalist and could be a good debate moderator. I’m talking about the institution. And hosting a debate is something the institution does. That is crystal clear.
The idea that Fox would get to host one of the Democrats debates isn’t just a bad idea or dangerous. It’s a bizarre idea. The bigger question is why they were even considering it in the first place.