updated 3/30/2007 9:29:35 AM ET 2007-03-30T13:29:35

Fox News, rebounding from a presidential debate squabble with Democrats, has a new deal with an old debate partner. The cable news network will co-sponsor primary debates for each party's presidential field this fall in association with the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute.

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The Democratic debate is scheduled for Sept. 23 at Detroit's Fox Theater. The CBC Institute and Fox have not set a date and place for a planned Republican debate. The institute and Fox News teamed up to host two Democratic debates in 2003.

Democrats, under pressure from liberal activists, this month canceled a Nevada debate that Fox was to co-sponsor in August. Democratic critics complained that the network displays a conservative bias in its news broadcasts.

The CBC Institute, a nonprofit group whose directors include members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Fox News announced their agreement Thursday.

Black Caucus officials made it clear that the size of the Fox News audience was more important than disputes over ideology.

"The CBC Institute is committed to presenting the presidential candidates to the broadest audience possible," Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chairman of the institute, said in a statement. "Collaborating with Fox News provides an opportunity to take this presidential election to millions of households."

Marty Ryan, the network's executive producer of political programming, said the debates that Fox and the CBC Institute sponsored four years ago "were among the most important and interesting of that cycle, and we expect these to be even better."

Protests expected to continue
Colorofchange.org, a coalition of black online activists, plans to launch an Internet petition against the Fox-CBC Institute debate partnership, arguing that network commentators have been racially provocative when discussing topics involving blacks, including the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

"The CBC Institute's decision is shamefully out of step with most black voters and we will continue to push on the CBC Institute to drop this deal," said James Rucker, head of the coalition.

The CBC Institute has an agreement with CNN to broadcast a Democratic presidential primary debate in South Carolina and a Republican debate at a site to be determined.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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