One month after the Democratic Party announced that Fox News would be prohibited from hosting a 2020 primary debate, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has agreed to do a town hall with the network.
The event, which will take place on April 15, will be hosted by two of the network’s news-side anchors—Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum—making the interview more palatable for Sanders’ campaign. Moreover, the senator will not be the first Democrat running for president to appear on Fox News. A week-and-a-half ago, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg did a sit-down interview for Fox News Sunday.
But the decision by Sanders, who is one of the leading Democratic candidates in the race, sparked swift backlash among progressive media operatives, who suggested that the senator would legitimize a network whose programming has been so clearly geared towards boosting Donald Trump.
Sanders has long touted himself as a politician eager to engage unorthodox audiences, in addition to one who can bring back disaffected Democrats who decided to support Trump. He appeared at a Fox News town hall in 2016 (though, to be fair, Hillary Clinton did too!).
And while progressive institutions like Media Matters were upset with his decision to go back on the network, one notable group gave him a pass.
The DNC, which had refused to do a Fox News debate precisely on the grounds that they believed it would legitimize a biased news network, said it was comfortable with Sanders’ decision.
"While the DNC does not believe that FOX is equipped to be a partner for a 2020 debate because of concerns of fairness at the highest levels within their organization, the DNC believes that we must reach all voters, including their audience,” said spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa.
“Therefore, candidates should do what they need to do in order to engage these voters directly."
“We’re pleased that the DNC agrees with Fox News that successful Democratic presidential candidates must engage directly with FNC’s large and diverse audience through televised town halls,” Fox News senior vice president Bill Sammon said in his own statement. “That logic extends to primary debates, so we continue to hope the DNC will reconsider its decision to bar top-notch journalists Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum from the debate stage.”
—Maxwell Tani contributed reporting.