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Why Are Democratic Candidates Agreeing to Do Fox News’ Town Hall Events?

Donald Trump supporters demonstrate outside of a FOX News Town Hall with Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders

Last month, the Democratic National Committee announced that Fox News would not be chosen to host any of the Democratic Party’s presidential debates. This made sense, since Fox’s relationship with legitimate news reporting is tenuous at best. The decision came after a New Yorker article was published in which Jane Mayer laid out concrete evidence of the incestuous relationship between Fox News and the White House.

Fox News has proven itself to be a dishonest and antagonistic purveyor of political news and the DNC did the right thing by excluding them from official Democratic debates. But individual candidates are still able to have whatever sort of relationship they please with Fox, and Bernie Sanders recently chose to participate in a town hall event hosted by the network. That event ended up being the highest-rated town hall of the 2020 campaign so far, reportedly drawing more than 2.5 million viewers. (For comparison, Kamala Harris’ recent CNN-hosted town hall drew in 1.95 million viewers.)

And now more Democrats look to be following suit. Amy Klobuchar will participate in a Fox News town hall event on May 8th. According to the Daily Beast, Pete Buttigieg is in talks to do a town hall event with the network, as is Julián Castro. Representatives Eric Swalwell and Tim Ryan (two lesser-known Democrats who have entered the 2020 race) both say they’re “willing” to do Fox town halls.

So what’s in it for Democrats? Well, ratings, sure. Although we’ll have to wait and see whether future Dem town halls get the same viewership numbers. The combination of aggressively conservative Fox News plus Bernie Sanders, a proud Democratic socialist with his own issues with the Democratic Party, seems made to break records ratings. Klobuchar might give a better indication of what a more typical Democratic event would look like.

There’s also the question of how useful that viewership is, no matter how massive. Fox News is essentially a state-run Trumpian propaganda network at this point, and one has to wonder if it’s worth trying to appeal to their viewers on the network’s terms. Because they didn’t exactly prove themselves to be a bastion of journalistic integrity at Bernie’s event.

Although we did get this truly fantastic moment:

Still, doing these events gives Fox legitimacy at a time when they badly need it. (And definitely don’t deserve it.)

What do you all think? Did you watch Sanders’ town hall? Will you watch the others on Fox?

(image: Mark Makela/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.

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