Not to Hillary Clinton. The network with the top ratings and top reputation, in case you haven’t guessed, is Fox News Channel, and the Democratic presidential front-runner has refused to grant Fox a single interview in this election cycle. “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace called out Clinton over the weekend for avoiding his program, specifically, but the former secretary of state hasn't appeared on the network at all since June 2014, when she was on a book tour.
WALLACE: With Bernie Sanders’s appearance here last week, we’ve now sat down with every candidate in the race except Hillary Clinton. As we noted, she was asked recently what she would do as president to bring the country together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I think it's an important point the president made in his State of the Union. And here's what I would say. I will go anywhere to meet with anyone at any time to find common ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But, once again this week, Clinton turned down our request for an interview. We reached out to her campaign officials in charge of this sort of thing, communications director Jennifer Palmieri and press secretary Nick Merrill. Neither of them had the courtesy to even answer our phone calls and emails.
The point Wallace was making, without stating it explicitly, is that Clinton cannot credibly market herself as a unifier who will reach across the partisan divide if she won't so much as engage with a news outlet that has a massive — if conservative-leaning — audience.
And it really is about the audience, not the network. Fox is doing just fine without Clinton on its air. And does anyone really care about hurt feelings between journalists and politicians?
Clinton needn’t worry about offending Wallace or anyone else at Fox News, but she ought to think twice about alienating their viewers. Sure, most of Fox’s audience is conservative and unlikely to even consider voting for her — but not all of it. When the Pew Research Center studied the audience demographics of various news organizations during the last presidential election, it found that 23 percent of Fox viewers call themselves moderates and 10 percent identify as liberals.
That’s a third of Fox viewers who sound like potential Clinton voters. And she’s not talking to them.
Clinton has never been what you’d call a frequent Fox News guest, but she made occasional appearances on the network eight years ago, during her first White House bid — joking around with Karl Rove, debating tax reform with Bill O’Reilly and even going head to head with John McCain, with Wallace handling the questions.
Her concern might be that she wouldn’t be treated fairly — The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple rounded up some nasty remarks that could make Clinton understandably uncomfortable — but I seriously doubt she’d be greeted with hostility. She doesn’t have to face off with Sean Hannity or O’Reilly; she could sit with straight-news anchors like Shepard Smith or Bret Baier or even Wallace, for that matter. In fact, I’d wager that Fox would go out of its way to avoid any appearance of taking cheap shots.
That’s how things went two years ago, when Baier and Greta Van Susteren interviewed Clinton in-studio for a half hour. Baier led off with a series of questions about Benghazi, but the mood remained cordial throughout. Some conservatives even complained that he and Van Susteren were too gentle.
Wallace’s recent chiding of Clinton recalls his “Obama Watch” from 2008 — an onscreen graphic that displayed the number of days that had passed since the then-senator from Illinois had agreed to an interview (in 2006) without following through. When Obama and Fox finally set a date — after five weeks with a clock that had counted up to 765 days — Wallace offered this assessment to the New York Times:
In the end, they don’t do it for us. They do it for themselves. I think his defeats in Ohio and Pennsylvania have convinced them that he needs to reach out to blue-collar, moderate and conservative Democratic voters, and “Fox News Sunday” is a good place to reach them.
Subtract the Ohio and Pennsylvania defeats, and you could make the identical argument this year for Clinton. She might think she’s sticking it to a network that has been consistently tough on her, but all she’s doing is missing an opportunity to speak to every last voter. And by freezing out Fox, she risks undermining efforts to paint herself as a bridge-builder.
Granting an interview — or more than one! — could only help with outreach to independents, which ought to be more important than some old grudge.