Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on Fox News' "Special Report with Bret Baier" on Tuesday. (Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP)
Media critic

Fox News promoted the birther conspiracy against Democratic President Barack Obama. Fox News facilitated Republican efforts to stymie Obama’s every initiative. Fox News flogged the Benghazi story and any number of other Obama controversies before its prime-time and morning hosts coddled Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

And yet! On Tuesday evening, newly declared 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told Fox News host Bret Baier, “I love you.” The remark, mind you, was sandwiched in between her cogitations about the wisdom of a Democrat appearing on the No. 1 cable-news network. “And one of the reasons I came on this show is that I believe that candidates for office, whether Democrat or Republican, have to go not just where it’s comfortable but where it’s uncomfortable,” said Klobuchar. “And I love you. But you know, Fox may not always be comfortable for Democrats but I want to make that point.”

Those reflections came at the end of a very good interview. Baier pressed Klobuchar on her standing vis-a-vis the Democratic Party’s progressives, her temperament, recent stories about her treatment of staffers and more. Not tense, but tough.

Asked whether Klobuchar’s expression of affection applied just to Baier’s coverage or to Fox News writ large — which would include, for example, the idiotic “Fox & Friends” and the sycophantic “Hannity” — campaign spokeswoman Carlie Waibel responded, “I don’t have anything to add.”

Klobuchar is smart: Fox News, to be sure, caters to conservatives and Republicans, though not exclusively. As the Erik Wemple Blog has written before, a not-insubstantial chunk of the Fox News audience is Democratic/liberal. Study after study has confirmed this fact, including a 2014 behemoth from the Pew Research Center. “While Fox News is a dominant source for conservatives, it also draws a significant portion of its audience from across the ideological spectrum: Those with mixed ideological views make up 37% of its audience (they make up 36% of all panelists), and those to the left of center account for 18% of its audience (14% mostly liberal, 4% consistently liberal),” noted the study.

The other part of the drama here rests with Fox News itself. As noted in this space, Fox News made forceful appeals to the Democratic National Committee in the 2016 election cycle to host a Democratic presidential debate; it has been a frequent host of Republican debates. In February 2016, Baier asked then-DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman about allowing Fox News to do just that. She responded: "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.”

In May 2016, Fox News proposed a debate in California, but the Hillary Clinton campaign declined to participate, killing the idea. Fox News would have to wait for 2020 for another shot at the Democratic field.

The DNC is expected to announce media partners for its first two debates by the end of February. According to DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, the organization is talking to many cable and broadcast news networks, not to mention digital news organizations.

Read more:

Henry Olsen: Amy Klobuchar is Trump’s worst nightmare

David Byler: Don’t groan over those Amy Klobuchar stories. Democrats should welcome a tough primary.

Paul Waldman: Warren and Klobuchar demonstrate the fundamental divide among Democrats

Helaine Olen: A bully in the White House?

Erik Wemple: Where’s the fact check, Fox News?