Buttigieg, the small-town, Midwestern mayor who has made no secret of his interest in connecting with moderate and conservative voters, participated in a town hall on Fox News on Sunday to share his agenda if elected president. He took some heat for his decision from many in the Democratic Party’s base after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was praised for refusing to participate in a comparable town hall because of her disapproval of Fox News. But Buttigieg is hoping that calling out Trump’s favorite network and how its personalities have misled its viewers may ultimately be more winsome than ignoring Fox viewers altogether.
Warren, on the other hand, made it clear that she has no interest in partnering with Fox. Last week, the senator, who has done town halls in nearly 20 states and on other networks, tweeted:
“Fox News is a hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists — it’s designed to turn us against each other, risking life and death consequences, to provide cover for the corruption that’s rotting our government and hollowing out our middle class.”
Although Buttigieg ultimately took a different approach, he did not completely shy away from affirming the concerns Warren made. The Washington Post’s Amy B Wang wrote about it:
During an hour-long conversation with moderator Chris Wallace, Buttigieg tried to distinguish between Fox News’s reporters and its opinion hosts. The latter, he said, were “not always there in good faith.”Specifically, he called out Tucker Carlson for saying that immigrants made the United States “dirtier,” as well as Laura Ingraham, who once compared detention centers for migrant children to summer camps.“There is a reason why anybody has to swallow hard and think twice before participating in this media ecosystem,” Buttigieg said.Buttigieg confronted Fox News on their court to their faces while giving an explanation for why he still showed up that separates him from his Democratic opponents and appears consistent with his entire approach to campaigning.“There are a lot of Americans who my party can’t blame if they are ignoring our message, because they will never hear it if we don’t go on [Fox] and talk about it," he said.
It is difficult to communicate just how influential Fox News is in shaping perspectives of the Democratic Party. The network isn’t derisively referred to as a propaganda outlet for Trump for no reason. A 2017 Pew Research Center survey revealed that Americans who voted for Trump in the general election relied mostly on Fox as their main source of political news. This is of little surprise considering that the network is consistently far less critical of the Trump administration than CNN and MSNBC — even among its more respectable news shows.
However, one could argue that Buttigieg‘s approach might end up letting Trump-supporting Fox News viewers off the hook too much. Although it is certainly the most influential, Fox is not the only conservative media option in town — although it is getting more difficult to survive in the conservative media complex if your outlet is not consistently supportive of Trump.
Trump-supporting Fox viewers are adults capable of making their own decisions, including diversifying their media consumption. If they choose not to entertain media featuring valid pushback to their political convictions, that is their choice. And perhaps Buttigieg‘s comments will be the initiative some in the town hall audience needed to rethink their trust in Fox.
But ultimately he took an approach that may present a new path for Democrats interested in winning the independents and even onetime Trump supporters looking for an alternative to the president. In a race where small percentage points matter, Democratic candidates at the bottom of the polls cannot afford to leave votes on the table. But they must find a way to do so without alienating the liberals counting on them to be more concerned about those in the party than Americans who bought into the Trump ideal of a great America