Liberal pundits are enraged with Bernie Sanders for his appearance on “destructive” Fox News, and with other Democrats for following suit, all while forgetting Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did the same to no ado.
Fox News could never be mistaken for a liberal news channel. From President Trump’s frequent phone-in exclusives on Fox & Friends to former host Bill O’Reilly’s invectives against Democrats, immigrants, and rock music, the network makes its political leanings well known.
However, Fox is still a news network, and even in hyper-partisan, Trump-era America, news networks interview political candidates from both parties. Fox aired a town hall with Sanders on Monday night, an event that saw the Vermont Senator’s ideas – chief among them universal health care and tax hikes on the wealthy – resonate with the studio audience and draw more than 2.5 million viewers at home.
Sanders’ performance came as 2020 challenger Sen. Amy Klobuchar gears up to hold a town hall on the network next month. Pete Buttegeig is in talks to appear on Fox, along with lower-tier candidates Julian Castro, Rep. Eric Swalwell, and Rep. Tim Ryan, the Daily Beast reported.
Despite a strong showing, Sanders came under fire; not from Republicans, but from the liberal media. The progressive godfather’s appearance put “an imprimatur of legitimacy on one of the most destructive forces in American politics,” wrote CNN contributor Dan Pfeiffer, obviously missing the last two years of Russia hysteria propagated by his own network.
I understand the short-term incentives for Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg to appear on Fox News, but putting an imprimatur of legitimacy on one of the most destructive forces in American politics has long-term consequences. https://t.co/I4IKTb3n8C
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) April 16, 2019
“For the left to ignore the way in which Fox is directly responsible for the far right shift in US politics while treating it like a legitimate news network is a huge mistake” tweeted The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan.
I get it. Fox News has a big audience. And, yes, all of the problems in the US can’t be blamed on Fox. But for the left to ignore the way in which Fox is directly responsible for the far right shift in US politics while treating it like a legitimate news network is a huge mistake
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) April 16, 2019
Can we stop pretending that going on Fox is an act of courage? It was a political calculation for Sanders, which is fine. But the other candidates aren’t afraid that a couple of Fox chuckleheads will make them look bad. They don’t want to legitimize a Trump propaganda organ. https://t.co/Orqmj9vwtw
— Paul Waldman (@paulwaldman1) April 16, 2019
Of course, Sanders’ decision to reach across the aisle is a strategic one. Recorded in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – famed for its languishing steel industry – the interview came at the end of a four-day tour of Midwestern states: States that voted Trump in 2016. If successful in next year’s primaries, Sanders will offer blue-collar Pennsylvanians an alternate vision to the industrial revitalization promised and partially delivered by Trump.
Just checking: is Bernie Sanders a fascist or white nationalist for having done a Fox News town hall last night? I can never keep this straight
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) April 16, 2019
Nor was Monday’s interview the first time a Democrat has walked into the Fox studio. “Not only did Obama give exclusive interviews to Bill O’Reilly when he was a presidential candidate, but also gave O’Reilly an exclusive Super Bowl interview in the White House, by far the single most ‘legitimizing’ act for Fox,” journalist Glenn Greenwald pointed out.
Can someone please remind @danpfeiffer that not only did Obama give exclusive interviews to ***Bill O’Reilly*** when he was a presidential candidate, but also gave O’Reilly an exclusive Super Bowl interview in the White House, by far the single most “legitimizing” act for Fox: https://t.co/iP9LFNC6Fi
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 17, 2019
Then-candidate Hillary Clinton also spoke to O’Reilly during her 2008 presidential campaign.
Liberal pundits weren’t the only viewers put out by Sanders’ hour in the limelight. President Trump tweeted three separate digs at his potential 2020 rival in the hours after the town hall and complained that Fox, while aiming for a diverse audience, allegedly kept Trump supporters out of the studio. Similar complaints were made by Trump fans on Twitter and Reddit.
Many Trump Fans & Signs were outside of the @FoxNews Studio last night in the now thriving (Thank you President Trump) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the interview with Crazy Bernie Sanders. Big complaints about not being let in-stuffed with Bernie supporters. What’s with @FoxNews?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2019
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