Image Credits: Meredith Nierman/WGBH.
Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand have all either done a town hall meeting on Fox News or committed to do one in the future. They rationalize the decision by arguing that it gives them an opportunity to reach more voters, and they’re right about that. Klobuchar and Gillibrand aren’t known well nationally, so it’s easy to understand their reasoning. They don’t have the luxury of ignoring chances to introduce themselves. Elizabeth Warren is better known and doing somewhat better in early polls, but she could also benefit from more exposure. Nonetheless, she has emphatically rejected an invitation to do a town hall meeting on Fox.
“I won’t ask millions of Democratic primary voters to tune into an outlet that profits from racism and hate in order to see our candidates — especially when Fox will make even more money adding our valuable audience to their ratings numbers,” she wrote. “Hate-for-profit works only if there’s profit, so Fox News balances a mix of bigotry, racism, and outright lies with enough legit journalism to make the claim to advertisers that it’s a reputable news outlet. It’s all about dragging in ad money — big ad money.”
This will certainly sell well with the kinds of Democrats who pay a lot of attention to politics. Party loyalists are likely to give this decision a standing ovation. She has certainly played this right considering her decision not to participate. If she’s going to forego some free exposure, she can at least compensate for the loss by making a huge fuss over it and strumming the heartstrings of Democratic partisans.
She’s also correct on the merits. Everything she is saying is true.
“A Fox News town hall adds money to the hate-for-profit machine. To which I say: hard pass,” she wrote in a Twitter thread. “Fox News is welcome to come to my events just like any other outlet.”
Her campaign was quick to point out “that since January she’s done town halls in 17 states, had 57 media ‘availabilities’ with reporters and done 131 interviews.” She’s not ducking questions. She just has no interest in legitimizing Fox News or helping them sell advertisements.
It’s a principled stand that works politically, but it’s also somewhat of a gamble. The nomination will not be won by winning over high information voters. The polls indicate that she’s far behind and in the middle of the pack, and she’s going to need to win a lot more support to become competitive. That support has to come from somewhere and Warren is proposing a lot of policies that could play well in parts of Trump country. Delegates from Tennessee or Oklahoma count for just as much as delegates from New York and California, so blowing off Fox News isn’t necessarily the best strategy for her campaign.
I’m not sure this decision is a luxury she can afford, but now that she’s made it it will help differentiate her from Bernie Sanders and from any other candidates who agree to do town halls on Fox News. The fact that this is a roll of the dice and involves some courage will add points in her favor among partisans who are conflicted about where to throw their support.