Media critic says Fox News is "scrambling to avoid disaster" — but Democrats might save the network

“Fox is a radical right-wing propaganda machine . . . And the sooner Democrats act like it, the better”

By Alex Henderson

Published April 5, 2019 3:14PM (EDT)

 (AP/Richard Drew)
(AP/Richard Drew)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is refusing to let Fox News host any Democratic presidential primaries, a decision that has stirred consternation and debate. Ed Rendell — a former DNC chair, governor of Pennsylvania and mayor of Philadelphia — disagreed with that decision, calling it a “mistake” and arguing that if a Democratic candidate could “persuade 3% of Fox viewers,” that could help the candidate carry a state like Michigan in the 2020 election. And Sen. Bernie Sanders evidently shares Rendell’s view, as Fox News will be hosting an April 15 town hall featuring the Vermont senator and hosted by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

Media Matters’ Matt Getz, however, disagrees with Sanders, arguing that the last thing Democrats should be doing is “legitimizing” the right-wing cable news outlet.

In an article posted Thursday, Gertz discusses the ways in which Fox News has come under fire in 2019 — from losing advertisers in response to overtly bigoted remarks to Jane Mayer’s in-depth New Yorker article that “revealed the extent to which Fox News has merged with the Trump Administration, sloughing off basic journalistic standards in pursuit of a corrupt bargain with the White House.”

“Fox is in a state of crisis, with a series of bigoted comments from the network’s stars driving advertisers to flee its programs,” Gertz writes. “The situation is so dire that the network hosted advertising executives at its studio a few weeks ago in a desperate effort to convince them to continue buying ads. The upfront season, during which networks hope to sell up to 70% of their ads for the year ahead, is just weeks away—and the network is scrambling to avoid disaster.”

Although Rendell has been critical of the DNC’s decision to exclude Fox News from Democratic presidential debates, he has stressed that Democrats should be selective about who they engage with at Fox News — and specifically request the involvement of Baier or Chris Wallace, for example. Fox News’ sales department, realizing that some of its more inflammatory commentators can scare advertisers away, has been aggressively promoting Baier, Wallace and Shepard Smith as key figures in its hard news division (as opposed to the often caustic and incendiary opinion shows of Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson).

Gertz, however, writes that “Baier’s reputation for independence is inflated” and that trying to market MacCallum “as a ‘straight news’ anchor is a sick joke.” And the big problem with Democratic candidates appearing in Fox News-hosted events, Gertz stresses, isn’t the fear of “getting destroyed on air by hostile questions from Fox’s hosts” — it is “that the Democratic presidential candidates are allowing themselves to be used by the president’s propaganda network in its ongoing effort to sanitize its brand.”

Fox News’ “unending flow of misinformation and hate,” Gertz argues, has been causing it to lose advertisers—and Democrats should use that vulnerability to their advantage.

“Fox’s ad woes create a key moment of accountability for the network—a real chance to force change,” Gertz stresses. “And at this crucial moment, Democratic presidential candidates are giving the network cover in what amounts to a massive strategic failure.”

Gertz concludes his piece by asserting that it’s wishful thinking for Democratic candidates to believe Fox News can be fair-minded.

“Fox is a radical right-wing propaganda machine,” Gertz warns. “We all know this. And the sooner Democrats act like it, the better.”

Alex Henderson

MORE FROM Alex Henderson