Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) participates in a FOX News Town Hall at SteelStacks on April 15, 2019 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. (Getty/Mark Makela)

More Democrats are in talks with Fox News as Bernie Sanders town hall posts huge ratings: reports

Nearly 2.6 million viewers watched Sanders field questions from Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum


Matthew Rozsa
April 17, 2019 1:31PM (UTC)

Early Nielsen data reveals that Sen. Bernie Sanders' appearance on Fox News earns the prize for the most-viewed town hall of the 2020 presidential race.

Nearly 2.6 million viewers watched Sanders field questions from Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, according to the Associated Press. Monday's audience was nearly two times larger than the one who tuned in to watch Sanders Feb. 25 on CNN. That town hall was watched by roughly 1.35 million people.

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Prior to Monday night, Kamala Harris had attracted the largest town hall audience so far this cycle. Nearly 2 million eyes watched her January appearance on CNN.

In the aftermath of Sanders' appearance, reports have emerged that a number of other Democratic candidates are in talks to appear in Fox News town hall events of their own. These include: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.

When the Democratic National Committee announced in March that it would not allow Fox News to host their primary debates, Chairman Tom Perez argued to CNN's Chris Cuomo that "we wanted to maximize the number of people who see our candidates, because I think what we are fighting for commands the respect and support of the majority of the American people. Fighting for health care, fighting for all of those really important issues that every American wants to make sure is part of their live. And so I reached out to all of the networks to make sure we could maximize eyeballs, including Fox News."

He added, "Our second goal, though, is to make sure that every debate that takes place, that I have 100 percent assurance that everybody is treated fairly. And I have respect for a number of folks on the news side over at Fox News — I was just on Chris Wallace a couple of weeks ago, if invited I'll go back again, he's very respected — and I have nothing but respect for him. At the same time, though, Chris Wallace isn't my concern. You see that, at the highest levels of Fox News, they have infiltrated the news side."

Sanders' Fox News town hall included a number of memorable moments, including an unexpected response when Baier asked members of the audience whether they would support "Medicare for All." After a majority indicated they would, Sanders pointed out that "what probably every mayor in America does is you look around for the best insurance program, the most cost-effective insurance. You change insurance. Every year, millions of workers wake up in the morning, and their employer has changed the insurance that they have. Maybe they liked the doctors. Some people are nodding their heads. OK. So this is not new – every year. Now what we’re talking about actually is stability – that when you have a ‘Medicare for All,’ it is there now and will be there in the future."

Sanders also defended becoming a millionaire after publishing a best-selling book in 2016 by saying, "Come on, I paid the taxes that I owe. And by the way, why don't you get Donald Trump up here and ask him how much he pays in taxes? President Trump watches your network a little bit, right? Hey, President Trump, my wife and I just released 10 years. Please do the same."

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President Donald Trump expressed dismay at seeing Sanders on Fox News, tweeting it was "so weird to watch Crazy Bernie on @FoxNews. Not surprisingly, @BretBaier and the “audience” was so smiley and nice. Very strange, and now we have @donnabrazile?"

Baier tweeted back, "Thanks for watching Mr. President - we’d love to have you on a town hall soon — or even an interview on @SpecialReport —it’s been awhile. We cover all sides."


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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