Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.
Forget about a debate on Fox News. For Democrats in 2019, the debate is Fox News.
This week, Senator Elizabeth Warren said she had turned down the network’s invitation for a town-hall-style event, calling Fox News a “hate-for-profit racket” that promotes “racists and conspiracists.”
Here’s one place we can fight back: I won’t ask millions of Democratic primary voters to tune into an outlet that profits from racism and hate in order to see our candidates—especially when Fox will make even more money adding our valuable audience to their ratings numbers.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 14, 2019
She was quickly joined by Senator Kamala Harris, who also said she would not participate in the events.
Their rejection of the network set them apart from some of their rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, including Senator Bernie Sanders, who participated in a Fox News town hall in April, and Senator Amy Klobuchar, who was featured in one this month.
“It’s fun to be here on Fox — it feels a little bit like being a Viking fan on Lambeau Field,” Ms. Klobuchar, of Minnesota, said at the event, which was in Wisconsin. “But I’m ready to go!”
Whether to participate in a Fox News town hall, an hourlong session where voters and moderators ask the candidate questions, has become the newest flash point in the Democratic primary. The debate underscores a deeper split among Democrats: Is it better to ignore a media outlet that they believe skews its coverage to President Trump’s benefit, or embrace the opportunity to get their message through its filter?
Ms. Warren is making the case that Fox News is not a news network but something else — a propaganda outlet for the administration, promoting misinformation that only further divides Americans. It’s an idea that is shared by the Democratic National Committee, which barred the network from hosting a primary debate.
The ban came just after an article in The New Yorker examined the symbiotic relationship between Mr. Trump and some of the network’s most powerful stars. (Even Mr. Trump seemed mystified by Mr. Sanders’s appearance on Fox: “What’s wtih @FoxNews?” he wrote on Twitter.)
Town halls and debates on Fox News are typically moderated by anchors from the network’s news division, not its more partisan prime-time commentators. But Ms. Warren’s argument is that participating only helps Fox News as a whole — and by extension, Mr. Trump. Why should Democrats prop up a network that specializes in vilifying them, the theory goes, particularly at a time when some advertisers have distanced themselves from some of its shows?
The fact that Ms. Warren’s position offers an implicit critique of Mr. Sanders, her biggest rival for the party’s progressive wing, is certainly a plus for her campaign. By rejecting Fox News, she is doing what liberal activists have been urging Democrats to do for years.
But others in the party see Fox News as an opportunity, a chance to break through the filter bubble that divides red and blue America and reach Mr. Trump’s voters where they live. Deriding their viewing habits as “hateful” gives some Democrats flashbacks to Hillary Clinton’s infamous “deplorables” comment, particularly given that Fox dominates the cable ratings.
“My view is that the numbers don’t lie,” said Robert Wolf, a longtime Democratic Party fund-raiser who is also a Fox contributor. “I applaud those who are going on Fox News. If you’re running for president, you have to be able to speak to everyone.”
Mr. Sanders’s appearance drew more than 2.5 million viewers, the biggest television audience to date for a Democratic candidate in the 2020 field. In interviews since, he has drawn a distinction between Fox News, the network, and Fox News viewers. “I think it is important to talk to those people and say, ‘You know what, I know that many of you voted for Donald Trump, but he lied to you,’” he said.
But beyond seeing Mr. Sanders, it’s not clear that voters are all that interested in spending an hour listening to any of the 2020 candidates. CNN has hosted 20 town halls; nearly all have drawn fewer viewers than the channel’s prime-time lineup typically draws.
Are you one of the few, the proud, the lonely, who love town halls? Join our reporters on Sunday at 7 p.m. Eastern time, in the NYTimes app or on NYTimes.com, for live analysis of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s appearance on Fox News.
Drop us a line!
We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are so many candidates, we need a news roundup
And then there were 23. There was a lot of 2020 news on the trail this week, and we’re here to catch you up.
• Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana is in! He plans to make the campaign finance system a centerpiece of his platform — and he raised $1 million in his first 24 hours as a candidate, his campaign said.
• Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, is in! He’s already given President Trump a nickname — “Con Don.” Responses from New Yorkers ran from “indifference to vehement objection.”
• Senator Cory Booker’s deputy campaign manager is trying to ensure that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand makes it onto the debate stage.
• Senator Kamala Harris and her team are bristling at the suggestion that she would make a good vice president, an idea I heard from several voters at New Hampshire events for Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday. She shot down the chatter during a campaign swing in the state on Wednesday: “I think Joe Biden would be a great running mate. As vice president he’s shown he can do the job.”
• Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who fell short in the Georgia governor’s race last year, says she’s not ruling out a 2020 bid. “I do believe I could enter the conversation as late as the fall and still have a chance to win,” she told MSNBC.
• Mr. Trump was asked about the significance of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s run as an openly gay candidate. “I think it’s great,” he said in an interview that will air on Fox News on Sunday. “I think that’s something that perhaps some people will have a problem with. I have no problem with it whatsoever.”
• He’s back at it: Beto O’Rourke live-streamed his haircut.
What to read tonight
• Republicans reset the terms of the abortion debate. Here’s how they did it.
• The SAT is adding an “adversity score” to address scoring patterns that indicate socioeconomic inequalities.
• The Washington Post investigates where ambassadors like to eat to remind them of home. Taco Bell, Ikea: Ambassadors, they’re just like us!
No one makes it hurt quite like The New York Post.
Were you forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox.
Thanks for reading. Politics is more than what goes on inside the White House. On Politics brings you the people, issues and ideas reshaping our world.
Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at email@example.com.