The argument, always, from the Democrats who believe it is worth validating Fox News by appearing and advertising on the network is that many self-identified Democrats watch Fox, and that it is worth trying to persuade the persuadable non-Democratic viewers. If we were talking about a network that had an identifiable slant but also a commitment to basic facts and real independence from any political party, that would be a viable argument. That’s not what we’re talking about with Fox News.
We’re talking about a network that repeatedly promoted Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election had been stolen while, behind the scenes, its top personalities and executives made clear that they knew these were lies. This active, knowing lying was in large part because they knew what their audience wanted to hear and feared losing viewers to far-right competitors that were pushing Trump’s Big Lie.
On Jan. 5, 2021, Murdoch wrote to Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott, “It's been suggested our prime time three should independently or together say something like the election is over and Joe Biden won.” That would be helpful, Murdoch said, because “such a statement would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election stolen.” Forwarding the email, Scott noted, “I told Rupert that privately they are all there we need to be careful about using the shows and pissing off the viewers but they know how to navigate.”
A network that is making decisions about whether to report the truth based on whether it will make viewers unhappy because the truth is in conflict with their political priorities is not a network that Democrats should engage with because it is rigged. There is no way Democrats can benefit by going on Fox News because Fox News is an organization dedicated to making sure Democrats lose.
Here’s how the Democratic defenders of having Democrats continue to go on Fox News make the case: On the one hand, says former Obama Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, “Democrats reached a verdict on Fox News many years ago. The only open question is does the rest of the political media ecosystem treat them as legitimate or not?”
On the other hand, says Schultz, not going on Fox “would be like unilaterally not engaging on Facebook—in many ways a toxic platform but where millions of people get their information.” So Schultz’s argument is basically that Fox is not a legitimate news source, but Democrats have to go there anyway because it’s too important not to, plus a spurious Facebook comparison. Facebook has stacked the deck against Democrats in many ways, but we do not yet have evidence that Mark Zuckerberg was handing Jared Kushner confidential information about Democratic advertising strategies. And, frankly, a lot more people use Facebook than watch Fox.
But that’s the take from a pro-Democrats-going-on-Fox-News Democrat: No, it’s not a legitimate news network and it’s time for the rest of the political media ecosystem to recognize that, but yes, Democrats have to go on it because they just have to. How do you ever make the case that Fox News is not legitimate if your major figures continue to legitimize it by appearing there, though?
It’s true that other media organizations bear some responsibility here.
“They are arguably the most important entity of the American right and the Republican Party,” Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg told Politico. “There needs to be a serious conversation now about whether Fox can continue to be a member of the White House Correspondents Association. Keeping them there seems not to be OK.” Rosenberg also suggested that the Associated Press Stylebook should specify that Fox News is not a news organization.
All of that would be easier if Democrats were united in describing Fox News as what it is: a partisan Republican organization, not a news one, rather than trying to have it both ways by criticizing Fox and still appearing or advertising there.
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What do Americans really think about the issues? It turns out they are a surprisingly liberal bunch, as Rachael Russell of Navigator Research tells us on this week's episode of The Downballot. Russell explains how Navigator conducts in-depth research to fill in gaps in policy debates with hard data instead of pundit speculation. The challenge for Democrats is that many voters say they hold progressive beliefs but still pull the lever for Republicans. That imbalance, however, presents an opportunity—Democrats just have to seize it.
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap the first round of voting in the race for Chicago mayor, which saw a progressive apocalypse averted; the resolution to the long-running uncertainty over the speakership in the Pennsylvania state House that saw Joanna McClinton make history; Rep. Elissa Slotkin's entry into Michigan's open Senate race, which makes her the first prominent candidate to run; and the inexplicable decision by conservatives to go dark on the airwaves for a full week following last week's primary in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.
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