While appearing on Fox News, Pete Buttigieg criticizes the network's primetime hosts

Buttigieg takes aim at Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham on the network where each hosts an hour during the week

Published May 20, 2019 2:25PM (EDT)

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks speaks during a FOX News Channel town hall, Sunday, May 19, 2019, in Claremont, N.H. (AP/Jessica Hill)
Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks speaks during a FOX News Channel town hall, Sunday, May 19, 2019, in Claremont, N.H. (AP/Jessica Hill)

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg used a nationally televised Fox News town hall on Sunday as an opportunity to publicly criticize a pair of the network's most high-profile primetime hosts.

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who came under scrutiny from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party for participating in the Fox News event in New Hampshire, took direct aim at Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham on the same conservative channel where they each host an hour during the week.

The moment came when the Democratic contender was trying to explain why he had agreed to participate in a town hall with Fox News, an invitation which other 2020 Democrats, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have declined because of the network's near constant attacks against the party. For her part, Warren claimed that Fox News has mixed "bigotry, racism, and outright lies with enough legit journalism to make the claim to advertisers that it's a reputable news outlet."

"A lot of folks in my party were critical of me for even doing this with Fox News, and I get where that's coming from, especially when you see what goes on with some of the opinion hosts on this network," Buttigieg told Fox News host Chris Wallace, citing "Tucker Carlson saying immigrants make America dirty" and "Laura Ingraham comparing detention centers with children in cages to summer camps." Wallace did not address the mayor's attacks aimed at his two colleagues.

"There is a reason why anyone has to swallow hard and think twice about participating in this media ecosystem," Buttigieg continued. "But I also believe that even though some of those hosts are not always there in good faith, I think a lot of people tune into this network who do it in good faith."

Buttigieg added that Democrats "can't blame" Fox News viewers if "they are ignoring our message, because they will never hear it if we don't go on and talk about it."

"We have to find people where they are, not change our values — but update our vocabulary so that we're truly connecting with Americans coast to coast," he concluded.

Buttigieg's remarks appeared to be well received by the Fox News town hall audience, prompting an enthusiastic applause from the crowd.

He came under scrutiny from some on the left for taking part in the town hall, as Democrats have been consumed in a public and ongoing debate about whether 2020 candidates should agree to participate in a town hall hosted by Fox News.

Warren publicly rejected an invitation to appear at a Fox News town hall last week on the grounds that the conservative network is a "hate-for-profit racket" that she claimed is designed to divide the Democratic Party. Harris turned down offers to appear on the network, too, according to multiple news reports.

But other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have agreed to appear on the network like Buttigieg — or said they would take the stage in an effort to appeals to the network's conservative viewers. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., headlined a Fox News town hall in April and May, respectively, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is expected to participate at a Fox News town hall event in June.

"If you're not using your town hall, I will," former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., a 2020 presidential hopeful, tweeted at Warren last week. "Democratic candidates have to campaign everywhere and talk to voters."

The Democratic National Committee announced in March that it would not allow Fox News to host any of the 12 Democratic debates during the 2020 presidential election cycle, arguing that President Donald Trump and the network have a mutually beneficial relationship that is "inappropriate."

Buttigieg directly attacked Trump, Fox News' chief programmer and most notable viewer, who issued appeared to issue a preemptive rebuttal by attacking the network earlier on Sunday for hosting the event.

"Hard to believe that @FoxNews is wasting airtime on Mayor Pete, as Chris Wallace likes to call him. Fox is moving more and more to the losing (wrong) side in covering the Dems," Trump wrote. "They got dumped from the Democrats boring debates, and they just want in. They forgot the people who got them there."

Buttigieg was asked about Trump's tweets criticizing and degrading him as looking like the freckled, gap-toothed, big-eared Mad Magazine cartoon mascot Alfred E. Newman.

"The tweets are — I don't care," Buttigieg said, drawing applause from the crowd.

He added that the president's tweets were "very effective way to command the attention of the media," admitting he finds it difficult to ignore all that Trump does and says at times.

"It is the nature of grotesque things that you can't look away," Buttigieg said to raucous applause.

By Shira Tarlo

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