Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) speaks during a Fox News town hall on Sunday in Dubuque, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
Opinion writer

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has had a hard time fundraising and moving up in the polls. But her Sunday town hall on Fox News might help with both issues:

For starters, host Chris Wallace was out of line. Suggesting that it was not “polite” to speak factually about the misrepresentations his network engages in was both condescending and telling. Fox News expects to gain credibility by inviting Democratic candidates on its network for town halls (and to make the case that it really deserves to host a debate), but its demand that candidates not speak ill of Fox — and play along with the ruse that it is a real, unbiased network — is precisely why some candidates have chosen to stay away.

Gillibrand handled the situation adeptly, plowing ahead with her critique and bringing the data to back it up. It was arguably her best moment of the campaign. In the same appearance, she got a smile out of Wallace when he interjected to ask whether men should also “get a seat at the table.” She shot back: “They’re already there! Do you not know?” Game, set and match.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) did not want to appear on Fox because she did not want it to reap the rewards of extra ad revenue it might obtain. (She presumes that she would increase the audience, but that’s unproven.) I have come to believe that it is better to appear and disrupt the Fox News bubble.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg explained why some Democrats won’t go on Fox News. “Even though some of those hosts are not there in good faith, I think a lot of people tune into this network who do it in good faith.” He pointed out that Tucker Carlson, for example, says immigrants make America “dirtier.” But better than avoiding Fox, candidates should use the chance to make fact-based attacks on the Fox News misinformation operation, as Gillibrand did.

Candidates, for example, should indict both President Trump and the Fox hosts who propounded birtherism. Democrats should excoriate Trump and the Fox hosts who falsely say Trump was exonerated — and then tell Fox News viewers that Robert S. Mueller III found that Trump encouraged Russian meddling and obstructed the investigation in no less than 10 ways. Democrats should point out that contrary to Trump’s assertions, echoed by one Fox News host after another, evidence of climate change at this point is indisputable — and cite the administration’s own documentation.

There is a universe of facts that Fox News viewers have no knowledge of, and Democrats can help throw sand in the Trump-Fox propaganda machine. In doing so, they’ll demonstrate to the larger Democratic audience (which might not watch live but will watch clips and read about it later) that they are fearless and more than up to the task of undermining Trump’s misleading narratives. If Fox doesn’t like it, I suppose they can stop inviting Democrats to town halls. However, that would just confirm that the purpose of the town halls is to try to rehabilitate the network and convince a wider audience that it is a legitimate news organization.

Read more:

Erik Wemple: Fox News: Warren is ‘nasty.' Gillibrand is not ‘polite.’

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Gary Abernathy: Admit it: Fox News has been right all along

Erik Wemple: Fox News viewer surprised that Mueller hadn’t exonerated Trump on obstruction

Erik Wemple: Mueller ruins Hannity’s parade of deception

Greg Sargent: Fox News spins desperately to shield lawless president from accountability