March 7, 2019

The Democrats want nothing to do with Fox News. In a controversial move first reported Wednesday by the Washington Post, the Democratic National Committee said Fox News will be excluded from hosting any of its upcoming presidential candidate debates.

DNC chairman Tom Perez said the reason is a recent New Yorker story chronicling the close relationship between Fox News and President Donald Trump.

In a statement, Perez said:

“I believe that a key pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach all voters. That is why I have made it a priority to talk to a broad array of potential media partners, including Fox News. 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. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.”

Fox News senior vice president Bill Sammon responded with a statement of his own:

“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. 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 is planning 12 debates, starting in June. So far, TV rights have been awarded to only the first two. NBC (and sister networks MSNBC and Telemundo) will host the first one. CNN will host the second in July.

Politico’s Michael Calderone reported that the DNC, as recently as last month, was still open to having Fox News host a Democratic debate. Perez told Fox News’ Baier, “Absolutely, we’re having discussions with Fox, and others.”

What changed? The New Yorker story, which was published March 4. Fox hasn’t hosted a Democratic primary debate since 2004, although it did host a forum with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in 2016.

CNN’s Brian Stelter, appearing on his network, said, “It is true that Fox has journalists like Bret Baier, who would do a good job. But every night in primetime, Democrats are dehumanized, they are attacked relentlessly by Fox News primetime hosts. It was always hard for me to imagine a Democratic primary debate taking place in those hours when figures like Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are constantly demonized and attacked.”

Fox News’ John Roberts, however, tweeted:

“@DNC excludes @FoxNews from hosting a Democratic debate. Considering Chris Wallace moderated a PRESIDENTIAL debate, that seems a little short-sighted.”

Roberts was referring to the 2016 debate between Clinton and Trump when Wallace was praised for his moderating. Politico wrote then that Wallace “did Fox proud.”

Wallace has three Emmies to his credit, has won a Dupont-Columbia Silver Baton Award, and as the former host of NBC’s “Meet the Press” is the only person to have hosted or moderated more than one major Sunday morning political talk show. Baier’s career includes covering the Pentagon and the White House. In 2017, he won the Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. MacCallum has a long career in broadcast journalism, including stints at Wall Street Journal Television and NBC/CNBC before joining Fox in 2004 and covering four presidential elections.

The DNC could argue that a debate featuring no Republican candidates might still be detrimental to Democrats if questions were poised in a such a way to make certain candidates look better or worse, or make all candidates look bad. It would not be surprising if, in the future, Republicans retaliate by excluding networks they feel are biased against them. Trump already tweeted out such a threat Wednesday night. This DNC move will unquestionably be used to widen the divide between liberals and conservatives.

The DNC should reconsider. To throw down the gauntlet over one debate a year before the Democrats pick a candidate and a year-and-a-half from the 2020 presidential election seems petty and a little paranoid. It’s also clear that the Democrats were looking for a way to avoid Fox News all along and the New Yorker article was the excuse it needed. After all, is the DNC suggesting that it was OK with Fox News before the New Yorker article? This also could be the DNC’s way of refusing to acknowledge Fox News as a legitimate network.

But, as Republican strategist Evan Siegfried points out, the DNC should welcome a debate on a network watched by voters in states the Democrats need to flip in 2020, such as Ohio and Michigan.

Yes, as Stelter notes, Fox News beats up on Democrats in primetime. Democrats have a right to be cautious in dealing with the network, and you could understand that they wouldn’t want someone such as Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham, all of whom are essentially opinionists, to host a debate. However, Fox News has enough capable and fair journalists — starting with Wallace and Baier — who can be trusted to do a fair job. They should be given the chance.

Keeping it professional

This screenshot from “CBS This Morning” shows singer R. Kelly yelling and pointing during an interview with anchor Gayle King, who remained poised and calm during his outburst.

The photo alone could be used to teach a master class in interviewing.

An emotional R. Kelly, the musician accused of sexually abusing several women, is standing. His right arm with an extended index finger is raised. He is yelling.

Next to him, morning show anchor anchor Gayle King. She is sitting with her hands folded on her lap. She is looking straight ahead. Her face is expressionless.

This was the snapshot during an explosive scene that played out during King’s interview with Kelly on Wednesday’s “CBS This Morning.” Kelly’s outburst started when King asked him if he ever held women against their will.

“I don’t need to!” Kelly said. “Why would I?”

On and on, Kelly continues. King calmly interjects, trying to get a straightforward answer. Kelly continues to yell. He stands and yells more. King lets him go. Eventually, Kelly is yelling straight into the camera. King remains quiet, composed.

When asked about the interview by CBS’s Kenneth Craig, King said she wasn’t uncomfortable when Kelly stood up and started his rant.

“I was thinking, ‘Where is he going?’” King said. “I was thinking, ‘I hope he’s not leaving. I have some more questions.’ That’s what I was really thinking.”

That is what led King to remain calm. She didn’t want to further agitate Kelly so that he would end the interview. She told O, The Oprah Magazine that she never felt in danger.

“I did worry at some points that he might accidently hit me, because he was so angry that he was flailing,” King said. “But I knew that I wasn’t in any real danger. I just kept thinking, ‘Okay, Robert, go ahead’ and that’s what I said.”

Not only did King’s calmness preserve the interview, but showed her fairness as a journalist to allow Kelly to respond to her questions, and to allow viewers to see that response.

“In some ways we were seeing a breakdown right before our eyes,” King told “CBS This Morning.” “He composed himself and came back because he does want people to hear him, but he does think the world is out to get him and everybody is lying.”

Just hours after a portion of King’s interview with Kelly aired, Kelly was taken into custody over unpaid child support. King’s entire interview with Kelly will air on CBS Friday night at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

Media news

Jared Hohlt, former editor of the print edition of New York Magazine, has been named editor-in-chief of Slate effective April 1. He takes over for Julia Turner, who left Slate last year to become deputy managing editor of the Los Angeles Times.

The Wall Street Journal is hiring. And how. Chris Roush of Talking Biz News notes that the WSJ is adding three dozen jobs. You read that right: three dozen.

The Los Angeles Times reports that “PBS NewsHour” is adding a full-time West Coast bureau that will provide more timely coverage for viewers in that region of the country. PBS unveiled plans Wednesday to open a newsroom and studio based at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Good reads

DNA supports an intellectually disabled woman’s rape claim. So why are there no charges? Excellent reporting on a disturbing story from the Tampa Bay Times’ Kathryn Varn.

Deadspin’s Drew Magary has a brutal takedown of Barstool Sports. (Warning: seriously R-rated language.)

San Diego’s NBC station reports that the “U.S. government created a secret database of activists, journalists, and social media influencers tied the migrant caravan.”

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

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Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Jared Hohlt’s name. We regret the error.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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  • The article on banning Fox News is very funny. The Post ALWAYS been against the will of all the Second Class American Citizens that lives in the Island, to end with the Latest U.S. A. Colony: Puerto Rico. This is a laughing and futile cause, The Post has been doing to Puerto Rico, worth than that.