Fox News anchor Bret Baier last night conducted an enlightening interview with Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz after the PBS Democratic presidential debate. What’s the deal with this Henry Kissinger stuff? How do you explain this superdelegate math? What’s up with Hillary Clinton’s trust numbers in New Hampshire? Those were among Baier’s questions — not verbatim, mind you. It was a polite yet concerted grilling, just the sort of accountability a Democratic Party chair should sustain now and again.
Then came the part relevant to a media reporter. Baier to Wasserman Schultz: “You’ve had six debates so far. I think you have four more on the books. How about letting the Fox News debate team handle one of those?”
“Ha ha ha ha,” laughed Wasserman Schultz at first. “You know,” she continued, “we’ve got a lot on our plate and I’m really happy to be here with you on your network. There aren’t a whole lot of Democrats who come on and I always look forward to our conversations, Bret — look forward to sparring with you and some of your hosts all the way through the campaign.”
“So you’re saying there’s a chance,” said Baier.
“I’m saying that I’m here ready to talk with you about the issues and will do so all the way through this election cycle,” the chairwoman finished.
In other words: No debate, and I’m about the only Democrat who’s going to come on your network to defend our work.
The Erik Wemple Blog sides with Baier and the Fox News debate team on this one. One good reason is audience. Sure, Fox News broadcasts attacks on Democrats, especially in the early morning — “Fox & Friends” — and in its highly opinionated prime-time programs “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity.” Those programs may well explain why there “aren’t a whole lot of Democrats” who go on Fox News, as Wasserman Schultz put it. (White House press secretaries and several Democratic lawmakers do turn in appearances on the network).
Yet there are plenty of Democrats who are watching. Savor this 2012 chart from the Pew Research Center:
Nearly a quarter of the Fox News audience, according to Pew, is Democratic and nearly a quarter is moderate. Check out the bulging population of independents, as well. One group alone hasn’t vaulted Fox News to the very top of its industry, contrary to popular misconception. Why doesn’t the DNC want to reach these groups, as well as the core Fox News audience?
Another reason is experience. Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier and Chris Wallace are a capable debate moderation team, as they’ve proven twice on the GOP side during this cycle. Why not put the Democratic contenders before this panel? If the goal is to win the White House in the general election, the prudent course is to test the primary contenders as thoroughly as possible. It’s hard to argue that the Kelly-Baier-Wallace team wouldn’t prepare Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Clinton for the fall debates.
And what a talking point the DNC would take away from this move: The Democrats are looking to unite this country. Look at how we partnered with Fox News!