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Opinion Fox News host to Dems: Don’t criticize Fox News on Fox News

Fox News Channel's Dana Perino (second from left) attends Waiting for Wishes Celebrity Waiters Dinner in Nashville, Tennessee, April 16. (Jason Davis/Getty Images for LEGACY Events)

In a Thursday op-ed, Fox News host Dana Perino ditches journalism for the work of a publicist. “Dana Perino’s six tips for successful Fox News interviews... for Democrats,” reads the headline of a piece that shills for the network as a platform for Democratic presidential candidates.

To her credit, Perino traffics in facts. She’s right, for instance, that Fox News reaches a goodly number of Democrats and independents, surely a consideration for any of the 20-odd Democratic candidates prowling the country. She’s right, too, that Fox News has a greater audience than its cable news competitors. And she’s right that any prospective candidate/guest would do well to watch the network’s programming before jumping in — not just video clips shared on Twitter.

Perino, too, has an audience of her own: Two Democratic candidates — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) — have already done town hall events on Fox News. Others, with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and lagging hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), are scheduled for the coming weeks.*

One problem is that they may have heard this sort of advice before: “Fox viewers are like every other voter. They want to see you be yourself. Authenticity is what people crave. Obviously, you’ll have points you will want to make, but rigidly sticking to unnatural talking points is a turn-off. Come in armed and ready to defend your position. It’s the job of the news media to ask tough questions of those in power,” writes Perino in a frenzy of election-season cliches.

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Even trite TV advice beats this passage from the Fox News host:

Pull Your Punches.
If you plan to come on Fox News just to take a shot at the network or the host, you’ll lose. Taking shots at Fox News while on our air on [sic] makes you look small and is disrespectful to the audience that is tuned in and loyal to the channel. Complaining about the refs is best reserved for Sundays (except for The Who Dat nation — they’ve got a right to complain).
If you decide to come on a show, take on the issue, not the personality. Demonstrate your gravitas and your confidence and ignore the trolls who complain that you had the nerve to go on Fox.

Disregard! This is just a Fox News host trying to protect her fellow Fox News hosts from accountability.

Perino thinks she knows her audience, but who really does? Statistics from a 2012 Pew survey on ideology and partisanship among various media audiences back up Perino’s characterization of the not-negligible number of independents and Democrats who watch Fox News. Some highlights: The Fox News audience is 22 percent Democratic. Heck, even Right-Wing Conspiracy Hour host Sean Hannity reels in a 5 percent Democratic share.

Perino arrogates to herself the ability to psychoanalyze these masses. “Taking shots at Fox News while on our air on [sic] makes you look small and is disrespectful to the audience that is tuned in and loyal to the channel,” she writes. How do you know, Perino?

It’s well nigh possible — though we can’t know for sure — that a robust portion of the independent/Democratic viewership includes folks like Bob Reams, the then-61-year-old man who, in August 2017, sabotaged a “Fox & Friends” segment in a Louisville, Ky., diner by holding up a “FOX LIES” sign during the broadcast. Reams appeared at the diner because he saw the proceedings that distant morning.

And why was he watching “Fox & Friends”? “You have to check out the competition,” he told the Erik Wemple Blog at the time. “You have to check out what they’re saying. If I didn’t watch them, I wouldn’t hate them. I wouldn’t know what they’re up to.”

There could be a whole community of Bob Reamses out there — people who watch Fox News to track the network’s divisive brand of news. Those folks surely wouldn’t mind seeing a Gillibrand or an Eric Swalwell bash a Fox News interviewer or two.

There’s some history on this front as well. In February 2014, then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly interviewed then-President Barack Obama. They tangled a bit over fairness, according to a Fox News transcript:

O’REILLY - Do you think I’m being unfair to you, do you think I’ve been giving you —
PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] - Absolutely. Of course you have, Bill. But, I like you anyway, Bill.
O’REILLY [OVERLAP] - Okay, but — give me how I’m unfair.
PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] - It-it-but — look —
O’REILLY - Give me how I’m unfair. Come on, you can’t make that accusation without telling me.
PRESIDENT OBAMA - Bill — we’ve just run through an interview in which you asked about health, uh, health care not working, IRS where-where we, uh, wholly corrupt, Benghazi —
O’REILLY - All right.
PRESIDENT OBAMA - Right, so the list of issues that you talk about —
O’REILLY [OVERLAP] - But these are unanswered questions —
PRESIDENT OBAMA - Yeah, but-but-but they’re defined by you guys in a certain way....

Since then, Obama has done just fine. O’Reilly? After getting booted from Fox News over sexual harassment settlements, he is an Internet commentator.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post said that Buttigieg had already done a Fox News town hall. It is scheduled for May 19.

Media analyst Erik Wemple blasts critics who say journalists fueled a witch hunt against President Trump. (Video: Joshua Carroll, Kate Woodsome, Danielle Kunitz/The Washington Post)

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