Mar. 8, 2007 — -- Seeking to solidify the liberal base of his party, Democratic presidential contender former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., announced this week his boycott of the August 14th Democratic debate in Nevada being co-hosted by Fox News.
Edwards was, in fact, responding to a gauntlet thrown by blogger Markos Moulitsas, founder of liberal website the Daily Kos, who asked the Democratic candidate pool "not to do a Fox News debate," rather "to debate in Nevada with another media partner."
For years, Republicans have wielded the spectre of the "liberal media" as a rallying cry for their base. Now Democrats are attempting the same with "fair and balanced" Fox News Channel, which they see as leaning unfairly to the right.
Moulitsas clarified that his e-charge wasn't to handicap the state or the Democratic party within it but "to deprive the right wing's premier propaganda outlet an easy opportunity to take cheap shots at our guys."
In the hours that followed Moulitsas' boycott request on the Daily Kos, the Democratic field scrambled to hedge their bets. In a move that spoke volumes about the high regard his campaign holds for liberal activists on the Internet, the first candidate to come forward and make a definitive decision not to participate in the Fox News debate was John Edwards.
"We will not be participating in the Fox News debate." Edwards' Deputy Campaign Manager Jonathan Prince said in an e-mail to Moulitsas, "We're definitely going to debate in Nevada, but we don't see why this needs to be one of them."
Edwards isn't the first Democrat with a prickly history with Fox News: former President Bill Clinton's adversarial interview with Fox's Chris Wallace last year comes to mind along with fellow White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama's, D-Ill., less than amiable relationship with the cable news outlet since it erroneously reported his childhood education at an extremist Indonesian madrassa. (Fox spokeswoman Dana Klinghoffer says that the "We Report, You Decide" network didn't "report" anything, it merely discussed Insight's false reporting, though it should be noted that Fox hosts did so repeatedly and not always mentioning "Insight" even though they stated "Insight"'s since-discredited findings as fact.) Edwards, however, is the first to officially boycott the ratings-leading cable news channel.
In an email to ABC News, Markos Moulitsas explained the reason for his campaign:
"Rank and file Democrats have spent the past decade fighting Fox News' lies and distortions, with increasing success. The network is the Republican Party's premiere propaganda arm, and already we've seen it, this presidential cycle, fuel smears against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama while providing Ann Coulter with sanctuary after her hateful remarks against John Edwards.
"Fox News doesn't deserve any validation as a "serious" news outlet because it's not an unbiased network. Any Democrat that goes on the network validates every single smear it launches against Democrats.
Edwards' decision lent momentum to the liberal grassroots movement; Moulitsas called it "showing real leadership on this issue."
In a Wednesday statement to the mainstream media, the Edwards camp also cited scheduling conflicts and a 'jam-packed' schedule as part of the decision.
"Given the wealth of options, the August debate just doesn't seem to be the best use of Senator Edwards' time," wrote Edwards' spokeswoman, Kate Bedingfield.
Over at the Fox News Channel, vice president of news David Rhodes issued a statement about Edwards' decision to boycott the Nevada debate calling it "unfortunate that Sen. Edwards has decided to abandon an opportunity to reach the largest mainstream cable news audience in America."
In a letter posted Wednesday on the Nevada Democratic party's website, state chair Tom Collins said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who originally hailed the partnership "has asked to take another look."
In a survey of candidates over at the Daily Kos, only New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says he will attend the Fox News debates. Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., have yet to decide.