Former Democratic National Committee chairman Ed Rendell is questioning his party’s decision to exclude Fox News Channel from televising any of its debates during the 2020 presidential cycle, calling it a missed opportunity to persuade viewers.
“If we could pick the commentators and moderators, I think we should have the debate on Fox, because let me tell you — even if we can persuade 3 percent of Fox viewers, 3 percent last time out, carries Michigan,” Rendell said during an appearance on the cable network Thursday night, referencing one of the rust-belt states that President Trump narrowly carried en route to his 2016 victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Rendell, a former governor of Pennsylvania, served as DNC chairman during the 2000 presidential election.
In a statement Wednesday, the current DNC chairman, Tom Perez, cited a story in the New Yorker magazine this week that detailed how Fox has promoted Trump’s agenda in justifying the party’s decision. The article, titled “The Making of the Fox News White House,” suggested that the news network had become a “propaganda” vehicle for Trump.
“Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates,” Perez said.
Asked about the decision during an appearance on Fox News’s “The Ingraham Angle,” Rendell said Perez is doing a good job as chairman but said the DNC made a “mistake.”
“I was the DNC chair, I would say, ‘Give me Bret Baier, Chris Wallace and Juan Williams, and you can have that Fox debate anywhere, anytime, any number of times,’” Rendell said, referring to three of the network’s anchors and political analysts.
Baier and Wallace are among those who have pushed back against the DNC’s decision.
In a tweet Wednesday, Baier called it “really a shame.”
“When it comes to fairness — our news product speaks for itself,” he said. “We will continue to cover this 2020 race fairly & will continue to invite Democrats- Republicans & Independents on to talk about key issues & substance with our very large viewing audience.”
Wallace said Thursday that “in the left wing of the Democratic Party, there is ‘Fox derangement syndrome.’”
Numerous networks, including Fox, have submitted proposals to the DNC to televise one of the 12 scheduled debates, which will start in June. So far, the organization has only awarded rights to the first two — to NBC (along with sister networks MSNBC and Telemundo) and to CNN.
The debates typically draw large audiences — the first Republican debate in August 2015 attracted a record 24 million viewers — and are a vehicle for promoting the networks’ news programs.
Paul Farhi contributed to this report.