Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will not participate in a Democratic debate co-hosted by Fox News Channel this fall, campaign aides indicated Monday.
The decision by the two Democratic presidential candidates follows an announcement last week by John Edwards, another White House contender, that he would forgo the Fox event.
The Sept. 23 debate, set for Detroit, is co-sponsored by the cable news network and by the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute.
Without Obama, Clinton and Edwards, however, Fox and the CBC institute would be missing three of the marquee contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Obama and Clinton aides said they intended to participate in six debates sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee. The DNC's list did not include the Fox News-CBC Institute debate, a concession to liberal and black activists who say Fox has slighted blacks and is biased in favor of conservatives.
A spokesman for Obama, who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, made it clear that Obama intended to participate in a debate co-sponsored by the CBC Institute and CNN.
"CNN seemed like a more appropriate host," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.
The Clinton campaign announced its intentions Monday after Obama had let it be known he would not be attending the Fox debate.
"Were going to participate in the DNC-sanctioned debates only," Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said. He added that Clinton already had commitments to participate in an upcoming debate in South Carolina and one hosted by Tavis Smiley, the PBS late-night talk show host.
Liberal activists' camapaign
Democrats have been under pressure from liberal activists to avoid Fox-hosted debates. Last month, the Nevada Democratic Party canceled a debate that Fox was to co-sponsor in August.
The institute, a nonprofit group whose directors include members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Fox News announced an agreement nearly two weeks ago to air Republican and Democratic presidential debates. But activists, including civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, immediately criticized the alliance and many called on Democrats to pull out.
But Candice Tolliver, a spokeswoman for the CBC Institute, said Monday: "The debates are still scheduled as announced,"
Calls by the Associated Press to Fox were not immediately returned.