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Democratic National Committee rejects Fox News for debates, citing New Yorker article

Fox News moderators Chris Wallace, left, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier at the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland in 2015. (John Minchillo/AP)

The Democratic National Committee has decided to exclude Fox News Channel from televising any of its candidate debates during the 2019-2020 cycle as a result of published revelations detailing the cable network’s close ties to the Trump administration.

In a statement Wednesday, DNC Chairman Tom Perez cited a story in the New Yorker magazine this week that detailed how Fox has promoted President Trump’s agenda. The article, titled “The Making of the Fox News White House,” suggested that the news network had become a “propaganda” vehicle for Trump.

“I believe that a key pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach all voters,” said Perez in his statement to The Washington Post. “That is why I have made it a priority to talk to a broad array of potential media partners, including Fox News. Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.”

High-profile appointments and departures in President Trump’s administration have one thing in common: Fox News. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Hours later, Trump responded to the decision by suggesting he might seek to retaliate.

"Democrats just blocked @FoxNews from holding a debate," he said in a tweet Wednesday night. "Good, then I think I'll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!"

Winning the exclusive rights to televise the 12 candidate debates is considered a prestigious prize in the television business. The debates typically draw large audiences — the first Republican debate in August 2015 attracted a record 24 million viewers — and are a vehicle for promoting the networks’ news programs.

Numerous networks, including Fox, have submitted proposals to the DNC to televise one of the 12 scheduled debates, which will start in June. So far, the organization has only awarded rights to the first two — to NBC (along with sister networks MSNBC and Telemundo) and to CNN.

In a statement, Fox News Senior Vice President Bill Sammon said: “We hope the DNC will reconsider its decision to bar Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, all of whom embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism, from moderating a Democratic presidential debate. They’re the best debate team in the business and they offer candidates an important opportunity to make their case to the largest TV news audience in America, which includes many persuadable voters.”

The network hosted back-to-back town hall meetings with Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in 2016 but did not televise a Democratic debate that year.

Fox’s connections to Trump have been documented for years. He had a regular spot on its morning program “Fox and Friends” starting in 2011 and has hired several of its former contributors and executives to work in his administration, including its former co-president, Bill Shine, who is now the president’s deputy chief of staff for communications. Trump has been interviewed many times on the network and has promoted various Fox talking points and personalities on Twitter.

Some observers have suggested that the network has become a kind of de facto “state TV,” shaping and promoting Trump’s policy agency.

New Yorker writer Jane Mayer added new details about the relationship in her 11,000-word article published this week.

Among other things, she reported that Roger Ailes, the network’s late chief executive, may have informed the Trump campaign about a question involving Trump’s treatment of women that former Fox News host Megyn Kelly intended to ask at the first Republican debate in 2015. Mayer also reported that Trump was tipped by Fox sources to a second debate question about whether the candidates would support the Republican nominee for president, regardless of who won.

In addition, Mayer wrote that a Fox reporter, Diana Falzone, had detailed information about Trump’s relationship with porn star Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election, but network officials declined to publish the story, apparently on orders from Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch. Fox has denied this account; it said it was unable to confirm Daniels’s story and didn’t publish anything as a result.

The most startling revelation may have been that Trump ordered his former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn to pressure the Justice Department to pursue an antitrust case against AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, the parent of Fox rival CNN, allegedly as payback for CNN’s unfavorable news coverage of Trump. Cohn purportedly declined to pursue the president’s directive, although the Justice Department did file an antitrust case, which a judge rejected.

The article also said Trump receives advice not just from Fox personality Sean Hannity but also from lesser figures at the network such as Pete Hegseth and Lou Dobbs, both of whom have been patched into Oval Office meetings to offer policy advice.