POLITICS

Bernie Sanders Says Fox News Is A Propaganda Arm Of Trump Administration

The 2020 presidential candidate also defended his decision to do a town hall with the network.

MUSCATINE, Iowa ― Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is standing by his decision to do a town hall on Fox News, saying it’s important to distinguish between the network and its viewers.

Still, he said he believes the conservative network is largely a propaganda arm of President Donald Trump’s administration. 

“In most respects, I think it is,” Sanders told HuffPost on Saturday during a sit-down interview before an event he held in Iowa.

Sanders is scheduled to do a Fox News town hall on April 15 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It will be anchored by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, who are considered more neutral than the hosts in the primetime hours, such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. 

He is the first major 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to do an event of this type on the network, and his decision is a break with the Democratic National Committee, which declared it would not give Fox a primary-season debate because of its connection to Trump. The DNC has said it has no issue with Sanders doing a town hall with Fox though.

Fox News Senior Vice President Bill Sammon said they were “pleased that Sen. Bernie Sanders and the DNC agree with FOX News that successful Democratic presidential candidates must engage directly with our large, diverse audience through televised town halls with top-notch journalists Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum and Chris Wallace.”

Investigative journalist Jane Mayer recently published a lengthy piece in The New Yorker outlining the extensive ties between Fox and the Trump administration, two entities that swap staff and take their cues from each other. 

“It’s the closest we’ve come to having state TV,” Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia who has studied conservative media, told Mayer. 

Sanders said he believes it’s important to reach the network’s viewers, even though Fox News is clearly pushing an agenda: 

When I go on Fox, what I will say is, Look, many of you voted for Donald Trump, but he lied to you. He told you he was gonna provide health care for everybody. Yet his policies are to throw 30 million people off of the health insurance they have.

He told you he wasn’t gonna cut Medicare and Medicaid. He lied to you. Massive cuts in his budget for Medicare and Medicaid. We’re not going to let him do it, but that’s what he wants to do.

Told you his tax plan would not benefit the wealthy. He lied again. Of course, 83 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent. How do you explain that to people who voted for Trump if you don’t talk to people who voted for Trump?

But it’s not just Fox. If you check where I go, and where I will go into this campaign, I’m not just going to go into blue districts. You’ve got to go into areas where people are. Working people need to know the truth, and that is that Donald Trump betrayed them, lied to them. And I intend to do that.

Media Matters has been one of the loudest critics of Fox News over the years. Angelo Carusone, the group’s president, said his main issue with Sanders doing the town hall is the timing. 

“Fox News is in the midst of a critical ad sales period where they need to sell 60-70% of all their ad inventory for next year,” he said. “But, due in large part to concerted efforts of activists and organizations, Fox News is having an ad sales crisis and is not able to fully persuade the advertising community that it is safe to come back in the water.”

“Doing this town hall in the middle of this moment will be used by Fox News to try and assuage advertisers concerns in a way that doing the town hall in a few weeks from now would not have done,” he added.

Marianne Gambelli, president of ad sales for Fox News, replied, “Fox News had a very successful upfront presentation where our advertisers walked away feeling extremely positive about our story and the value of our audience.  We expect no change in our business going forward.”

Both Sanders and Hillary Clinton participated in a town hall event with Fox News during the 2016 presidential election. 

“For better or for worse ― and it is for worse ― for whatever reason, you know, Fox has a huge viewing audience,” Sanders said. “And to simply say that we’re not going to talk to millions of people who watch that network, I don’t think is smart.”

Video by Ben Klein, Will Tooke and Tyler Tronson. 

This piece has been updated with comment from Fox News and Media Matters.

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