Edwards Pulls Out of Fox-Hosted Debate

Mar 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is bailing on a Nevada Democratic Party presidential debate, leading to claims of victory from Democratic bloggers and liberal groups upset with the party’s choice of Fox News Channel to host the event.

Sen. Edwards’ decision and an overflow of complaints that the party shouldn’t be aiding Fox News are prompting some changes in the Aug. 14 debate. A state party spokesman said Wednesday night that a “progressive” will be among debate questioners; also, a Las Vegas Fox broadcast affiliate and an Air America radio station will air the debate live and C-SPAN will air repeats.

“We offered an agreement that addressed those that wanted to hear about the debate without having to do so on Fox News Channel,” said Jamal Simmons, the Nevada party spokesman. He said labor leaders and national party officials support the debate as now proposed.

Sen. Edwards’ campaign announced its decision in an e-mail Tuesday night to Web site dailykos.com, which first reported it. Bloggers and some liberal groups have been pushing Democrats to jettison Fox and urging presidential candidates to skip the debate if Fox News Channel is involved.

In a statement today, the Edwards campaign said there were a number of reasons for its decision, but that Fox’s involvement was one.

“We’re already planning to participate in a jam-packed schedule of debates across this country. We can’t attend every single forum. By the end of this month, we will have already attended three forums in Nevada, and we will be participating in others. Given the wealth of options, the August debate just doesn’t seem to be the best use of Sen. Edwards’ time,” the statement said.

Bloggers and interest groups cheered Edwards’ decision, the first among the presidential candidates.

“We applaud John Edwards for sending a clear message to voters, the media and other candidates: Fox is part of the right-wing smear machine and should not be treated like a legitimate news outlet,” said Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action.

MoveOn launched a petition drive that it said was signed by more than 260,000 people.

“Fox is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel. The Democratic Party of Nevada should drop Fox as its partner for the presidential primary debate,” said the petition.

Fox, meanwhile, said it regretted the senator’s decision.

“It’s unfortunate that Sen. Edwards has decided to abandon an opportunity to reach the largest mainstream cable news audience in America,” said David Rhodes, VP news, Fox News.

Since announcing the debate in mid-February, the Nevada Democratic Party has been barraged with reaction from Democrats angry at Fox’s involvement.

A week after the debate was announced, state Democratic chairman Tom Collins took the unusual step of issuing a statement to defend the decision.

“Believe me, I am all too aware of the challenges associated with Fox. And this is not an endorsement of Fox,” Mr. Collins said at the time. “But [national committee chairman] Howard Dean has taught us that it’s best to stand up and fight everywhere, even in places and among audiences whose opinions may differ from our own. We have an opportunity to showcase our strong field of presidential contenders directly and unfiltered to Fox viewers, who include Democrats that we need to re-engage to both grow our party and to win the election.”

(Editor: Horowitz)