Fox News is once again a hot topic on the left, as, after recent prominent appearances by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Democratic activists are back to debating whether Democrats should go on the network, thereby giving it credibility as a "fair and balanced" network. This past weekend, the channel itself was more than happy to discuss the controversy.
On Sunday, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean appeared on "Fox News Sunday," which Obama had given an interview to the weekend before. Responding to prodding from host Chris Wallace, Dean said:
We stayed off Fox for a long time because your news department is, in fact, biased. But, Chris, you haven't been. You've always been tough, but I always thought fair and I still think that's true. And we need to communicate with people who are going to vote in the Democratic Party. Hundreds of thousands of Republicans have turned their back on their own party to vote in the Democratic primaries in the last six months. We owe it to our -- to all the American people -- to reach out to those folks. This is not about Fox News. That's not why I'm here today. I'm out because I want to talk to your viewers directly about why this election is important and what we can offer the American people.
After Dean's appearance, the show's panel discussed the issue of Democrats and the network generally. The network seems to know that there are some disadvantages to airing the topic so publicly -- it gets viewers thinking about whether Fox is indeed biased. But the panel members seemed also to know that in some ways Fox benefits from the debate, as it can appear more significant, more powerful, because of it.
During the discussion, the network's Brit Hume opined:
I think it was kind of a shrewd move for [John] Edwards to try to pick a fight with us early in the primary season to appeal, as you suggested, to the net roots, which are very important, particularly in fundraising, in the Democratic Party ... And the rest of the candidates had kind of gone along with this because it looked like smart strategy early.
Now, of course, they need to reach voters, blue-collar voters, Democrats in places like Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and states like that -- North Carolina. And they're going where the voters are, a little bit like the fabled Willie Sutton went to the banks. That's because that's where the money is. We've got the viewers. They're here. No surprise.
Panelist Mara Liasson agreed, saying, "I think it made sense then. It makes sense now. These are smart people. I mean, when it made sense to boycott Fox, they did ... The target audience right now in the primaries that we're in right now are these, you know, lower-income white voters. I'm not saying that they're any more represented among Fox's audience than CNN's, but there is an effort to reach out to those voters, to figure out how to reach them. I think this is all, you know, completely political common sense from start to finish."
Video of the discussion, via the Politico's Michael Calderone, is below.