Not fair and balanced: DNC bars Fox from hosting presidential debate

Party Chairman Tom Perez cited what he called the network's "inappropriate relationship" with Trump and his administration.
Image: Fox News host Sean Hannity
Fox News host Sean Hannity reportedly talks to President Trump on an almost daily basis. Mike Segar / Reuters file

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By Dareh Gregorian

The Democratic National Committee announced Wednesday that it would not allow Fox News to host any 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates, citing the network's close relationship with the Trump administration.

"Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates," DNC chair Tom Perez said in a statement. "Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates."

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The New Yorker reported this week that the network may have tipped Trump off about a tough question from Megyn Kelly, then with Fox, during the 2016 debates, and had quashed a story about Trump allegedly having an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels before the election because Fox owner Rupert Murdoch "wants Donald Trump to win."

Kelly, who recently left NBC News, has said she does not believe Trump was warned about the question, and former Fox News digital editor Ken LaCorte has tweeted that he killed the Daniels story because it was "nowhere near publishable."

The article also revived earlier reports that Trump speaks to Fox News personality Sean Hannity on an almost daily basis. Trump has done more interviews with Hannity than anyone else as president, and even pulled Hannity on stage at a rally in Missouri in November.

Perez said he believes "a key pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach all voters," which is why he'd been negotiating with the network, but the report had helped him decide that Fox should not host a debate.

In a statement, Fox News Senior Vice President Bill Sammon said he hoped the DNC would reconsider, and noted some of the network's most highly regarded journalists would be the moderators.

"We hope the DNC 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," Sammon said. "They’re the best debate team in the business and they offer candidates an important opportunity to make their case to the largest TV news audience in America, which includes many persuadable voters."

The DNC announced last month that NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo will host the first 2020 presidential primary debate in June. The debate could be held over two consecutive nights in prime time, given the anticipated size of the field.