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Dems on Fox News: Power play or political misstep?

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The 360 is a feature designed to show you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

Speed read

What's happening: It's no secret that Fox News is critical of Democrats, but the network’s offer to host town hall events for those running for president in 2020 has left the field divided on how to respond.

Elizabeth Warren emphatically rejected the opportunity to appear in a town hall on Fox News, calling the network a "hate-for-profit racket" that peddles a "mix of bigotry, racism and outright lies." Kamala Harris has also reportedly declined an invitation.

Other candidates, however, have jumped at the chance. Pete Buttigieg took direct shots at prominent Fox hosts during his town hall on Sunday. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar have also taken part in candidate forums on the network. Kirsten Gillibrand will appear in June.

President Trump fired off rare criticism of his preferred network for airing his political foes.

Why there's debate: Fox News has substantial viewership and candidates who decline to appear on the network will miss an opportunity to make their case to a large chunk of voters they otherwise may not reach. It will be tough for any Democrat to win the general election without appealing to moderates, and an appearance on Fox News may offer the chance to sway voters who have switched party allegiances since 2016.

Warren contends that Democrats appearing on Fox News are directly helping fund a platform that "profits from racism and hate."

Some on the left have predicted that, although a candidate may make a good impression during a town hall, the network will mine several days' worth of fodder to attack them based on their responses. Others argue that any viewer who exclusively watches Fox News is likely lost to Democrats anyway. Other progressives counter by saying the appearances offer a rare chance to promote populist policies to an audience Democrats typically have a difficult time reaching.

What's next: With so many Democrats running, the question of whether or not they'll appear on Fox News is likely to keep coming up as individual candidates make their own decisions. Beto O’Rourke said he would "absolutely" hold an event on the network. The current frontrunner, Joe Biden, has yet to weigh in on the subject.


Boycotting Fox News means writing off a large portion of Americans

"I think if you want to be president of the United States for everyone, then you need to speak to everyone." — Sunny Hostin, The View

The short benefit is outweighed by a longer backlash

"For any regular viewers who didn't watch Buttigieg live … all they saw was [Fox News] hosts mocking him as a cowardly, history-erasing clown. Pete Buttigieg's interest in telling his side of the story is understandable. But right-wing media is still going to tell Pete Buttigieg's side of the story for him, regardless of whether he shows up to tell it himself." — Jay Willis, GQ

By refusing to appear, candidates ignore working class voters

"[Progressive candidates] must take every available opportunity to speak to every section of the working class about what they stand to gain from a Left agenda — and in many circumstances, what they have to lose by continuing to support the Right. By refusing to go on Fox News, Warren has demonstrated that she doesn’t take this task as seriously as she ought to." — Meagan Day, Jacobin

Both sides benefit from getting outside of their bubbles

"[Sanders's] strengths outshone his flaws in front of a TV audience that many Democrats have a hard time reaching, having written it off as deplorable, if not irredeemable. He showed other Democratic candidates the way forward and warmed up the Fox audience to left-wing ideas." — Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

The question sparks a much-needed debate about the legitimacy of Fox's news operation

"Let them fight it out, because a long, national debate over the role of Fox News in contemporary America is a welcome development." — Erik Wemple, Washington Post

Fox News appearances could help drive a wedge between the network and the president

"The Fox town halls have also turned up one other positive side effect, from the point of view of Democratic presidential candidates: They seem to trigger the president." — Elena Schneider, Politico

Fox should not be treated as a real news network

"Nothing Warren says here is false. Fox News is a hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists." — Katie Herzog, The Stranger

Only Democrats are held to the standard of speaking to the other side

"So we are all on the same page. Dems actually haven't ceded Fox News. Democrats appear on Fox News more than Republicans appear on CNN or MSNBC." — Media Matters President Angelo Carusone, Twitter

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