Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) on Monday criticized the Democratic National Committee’s decision to bar Fox News from hosting 2020 presidential primary debates.
The Connecticut lawmaker, during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day,” suggested his party’s governing body had squandered an opportunity to reach millions of Americans by refusing to partner with Fox News.
“I don’t think it was the right decision,” Himes said. “Look, it’s no surprise to anybody, including to Fox News watchers, that Fox is largely an instrument of the right wing, of the Republican Party. ... However, and the reason I go on Fox, is that it’s watched by millions and millions of Americans.”
Himes suggested Fox News viewers could find Democratic ideas such as universal health care and bolstering retirement security more appealing than Republicans’ push to cut taxes for corporations.
Asked if he believes his interviews on Fox News ever “move the needle,” Himes danced around the question. He noted that a debate is more structured than a TV interview, which would restrict a moderator’s ability to insert his or her own bias if they “don’t like where you’re going.”
“It’s not like Sean Hannity can jump in and challenge Bernie Sanders,” he said.
The DNC announced last week that it would not partner with Fox News for debates during the 2020 election cycle, citing a recent New Yorker report that detailed the network’s close ties to President Donald Trump and its unofficial role as the White House’s propaganda arm.
“The network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates,” DNC head Tom Perez said in a statement.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who served as DNC chairman during the 2000 presidential election, said last week that Perez had made “a mistake” in his decision to ban Fox News.
“If we could pick the commentators and moderators, I think we should have the debate on Fox, because let me tell you — even if we can persuade 3 percent of Fox viewers, 3 percent last time out, carries Michigan,” Rendell said during an appearance on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.” He appeared to reference Trump’s narrow victory over Hillary Clinton in the midwestern state during the 2016 election.
He named several Fox News personalities, including Bret Baier and Chris Wallace, whom he believed would make for strong debate moderators. Both Baier and Wallace have spoken out against the DNC’s decision.
Fox News is the most-watched basic cable network, averaging 2.5 million primetime viewers in 2018. Himes on Monday said Democratic candidates could have benefited from addressing the network’s “huge audience.”
“As they say, you don’t need to persuade your friends,” he said. “You need persuade people who disagree with you.”