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DNC Bars 'Propaganda Outfit' Fox From Hosting Primary Debates

"The process of publicly considering Fox News as a host gave the network undeserved legitimacy," wrote one political journalist

Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity interviews U.S. President Donald Trump on September 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Democrats announced Wednesday that the Fox News network will not be invited to host any Democratic debates in the 2020 election, citing investigative journalist Jane Mayer's in-depth New Yorker article about the channel.

Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), said it was necessary to exclude Fox and its TV personalities from participating in the debates due to President Donald Trump's "inappropriate relationship" with the network and its function as the White House's unofficial propaganda outlet, as described in Mayer's reporting.

The article, Perez added, led him "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."

Media critic Jay Rosen credited Mayer for leading the DNC to its decision with her extensive accounting of Fox's approach to promoting Trump's policies and even advising him on governing the country.

Fox, which was established in 1996 by Roger Ailes, a former strategist for Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, has been known as a right-wing news outlet for decades. But Mayer argued in her report that the network has shifted from delivering partisan news to its viewers to selling them propaganda.

Mayer reported that when Fox hosted Republican presidential debates in 2015, sources from the network tipped Trump off regarding questions the Fox News moderators planned to ask.

The president receives policy advice from Fox hosts Lou Dobbs and Pete Hegseth, with the two being included by phone in some Oval Office meetings, and shares nightly phone calls with Sean Hannity.

"Nothing has formalized the partnership between Fox and Trump more than the appointment, in July, 2018, of Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News, as director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House," Mayer added, writing that Shine's presence in the Trump administration after more than a decade at the network has meant that a major player in the White House is now being paid by both entities:


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With Shine, the Fox and White House payrolls actually do overlap. The Hollywood Reporter obtained financial-disclosure forms revealing that Fox has been paying Shine millions of dollars since he joined the Administration. Last year, he collected the first half of a seven-million-dollar bonus that he was owed after resigning from Fox; this year, he will collect the remainder.

On social media, some argued that the DNC's decision would keep Democratic candidates from engaging with Fox viewers who could potentially be persuaded to vote for them in 2020—but critics including journalist Judd Legum wrote that including Fox in the debates would give the network "undeserved legitimacy."

"A key part of the motivation behind this decision is a recognition that Fox News is fundamentally in the business of spreading disinformation, as opposed to conservative reportage," wrote Greg Sargent at the Washington Post. "And the recognition that as such, Fox is at the throbbing core of something that has become a major blight on American political life is correct and important."

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