This week two more Democratic White House hopefuls dropped out of the Sept. 23 Democratic debate to be co-hosted by Fox News Channel and the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute.
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Gov. Bill Richardson, D-NM, are the latest to boycott the event, to be held in Detroit, because of the perceived bias of Fox News Channel.
Says Dodd spokeswoman Christy Setzer: "Given the current lineup of candidates, we feel we cannot have a full debate on the real differences in this race that the American people deserve."
Former Sen. John Edwards, D-NC, was the first to announce he wouldn’t attend. Edwards deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince proclaimed that "there’s just no reason for Democrats to give Fox a platform to advance the right-wing agenda while pretending they’re objective."
Edwards was followed soon afterward by Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, and Barack Obama, D-Illinois, whose campaign was disturbed after Fox News brought a great deal of attention to a false report that Obama had been educated in an extremist madrassa. (MORE ON THAT HERE)
The candidates had been urged to boycott Fox by liberal activists including Color of Change (LINK) and Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos website, who said (LINK) the Black Caucus’s "decision is breath-taking in its stupidity, and the organization will now face the well-deserved scorn of its own constituents as well as outside observers. Candidates will be forced to choose between grassroots activists (of all colors) and an out-of-touch, entrenched inside-the-Beltway organization."
Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes criticized the decision at an awards dinner. "Any candidate for high office from either party who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake about journalists," Ailes said at a Radio and Television News Directors Foundation dinner in Washington in March. "Pressure groups are forcing candidates to conclude that the best strategy for journalists is divide and conquer, to only appear on those networks and venues that give them favorable coverage," Ailes said, adding that any candidate "who cannot answer direct, simple, even tough questions from any journalist runs a real risk of losing the voters."
But in that same address, Ailes added to the list of Democratic complaints about the perceived rightward tilt of the network, joking about the similarity of Obama’s name with that of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, saying, "It’s true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don’t know if it’s true President Bush called [Pakistan President Pervez] Musharraf and said, ‘Why can’t we catch this guy?’
Those still planning on attending are Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who said (LINK HERE) the boycott is "particularly troublesome because the concerns of African Americans should take precedent over what network is broadcasting the debate…Those candidates planning to skip this debate clearly are trying to avoid a forum where there will be hard-hitting questions from people who may not agree with them. But taking questions from all sides is part of politics, and part of being President. I’m running to be President for all people in this country."
Last week, 26 members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to Clinton, Edwards, and Obama urging them to reconsider. They now have to send that letter to two other Democrats.
What do you think? Is it a good precedent for candidates to boycott debates based on perceived bias? The Fox News Channel GOP debate in South Carolina seemed to me to be pretty tough on the Republican candidates.