Fox News just proved why it shouldn't be hosting first debate

Don't reward awful behavior

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Days after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced its misguided decision to reward Fox News' Chris Wallace with hosting duties for the first debate between Trump and Joe Biden this month, the GOP network proved once again why it has no business taking its place alongside legitimate news organizations. The debate prize comes as Fox News has spent summer weeks and months lying relentlessly about a public health crisis, and fueling racial hatred among its viewers. More recently, the network yet again proved why it should not be given the cover of a news outlet.  

Last week, when The Atlantic published its blockbuster story about how Trump was often overheard disparaging members of the military, calling fallen soldiers "suckers" and losers," competing news outlets scrambled to confirm the story. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press quickly did so, leaving little doubt that the offensive quotes attributed to Trump were accurate and that many top officials who have worked with him had knowledge of them. Still, the White House fought the story, insisting it was a "hoax" concocted by the liberal media to target a Republican.

Then on Friday afternoon, Fox News national security reporter Jennifer Griffin also confirmed key parts of the story. Yet most of her colleagues, desperate to defend Trump at all costs, continued to attack the allegations as a “hoax” and a “scam.” Fox News' evening news anchor Bret Baier reported on the story with an on-screen banner that read: “Fake News,” after Griffin had confirmed it.

It was another disgraceful performance by a dangerous propaganda outlet that in no way resembles a newsgathering one. So determined to spread GOP misinformation and to defend Trump's erratic behavior, Fox staffers would rather belittle and undermine their own colleague than acknowledge the truth.

"This is exactly why it is such bull-sh*t that a Fox was given the reward of hosting the first presidential debate," tweeted Kurt Bardella. "The damage done by Fox News should not be met with the status and visibility of having one of their own in that spot."



Indeed, Fox News' Griffin fiasco last week showcases the absurdity of rewarding such a dishonest entity with hosting duties for the September 29 event. And yes, specifically giving Fox News the honors of having longtime Sunday news anchor Wallace moderate the first televised showdown is a very big deal, as the first debate usually draws the most media attention and the largest TV audience. At a time when institutional voices should be working to marginalize Fox News and its dangerous deeds, the Commission on Presidential Debates has opted to celebrate Rupert Murdoch's attack vehicle.

Note that Trump's team applied all kinds of pressure on the commission prior to its announcement of the hosts, urging that openly right-wing partisan be selected. That was never going to happen. But the public pressure may have moved the commission into bestowing Fox News with the honor of its anchor being chosen as the first debate moderator.

It's a big mistake. Especially during Trump's presidency, Fox News has become a tasteless outpost of white nationalism, anti-Democratic Party smears, and xenophobia, all delivered by Trump sycophants. There's a reason the Democratic Party has basically made it official policy to ban Fox News from hosting any debates during primary seasons.

The propaganda outlet has transformed itself into a jarring threat to democracy in the way it willingly—almost gleefully—lies and undermines our key institutions. It's a purely political player and Beltway voices ought to treat it that way.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the cable channel has downplayed and minimized the crisis and assured viewers it’s likely a partisan "Deep State"  plot to take down Trump. This, while Fox News itself ordered employees to work from home because the virus was too potent to return to the office. There's no doubt many people (Hundreds? Thousands?) have died because of Fox News' reckless misinformation, as the channel has wallowed in partisan conspiracies and ushered onto the air non-scientific experts to whip up paranoia.

When social justice protests erupted nationwide this spring, Fox News embraced blatant racism. For weeks, the incendiary cable network warned viewers about BLM's "Marxist and LGBT" agenda. "Fox News has also crossed over into the realm of pure fantasy, conjuring images of diabolical and violent young men, presumably men of color or members of the right’s boogeyman conception of antifascist groups," Media Matters noted.

As for moderator Wallace, he's often singled out as the a key honest broker at Fox News, and of course he should be able to moderate a debate. This is the same Chris Wallace who in 2017 insisted, "There's harder evidence of collusion between Clinton and the Russians” than Trump.

Wallace won high Beltway media marks for his moderating duties during the 2016 general election campaign. In truth, he routinely framed questions from a GOP perspective — he suggested President Barack Obama's 2009 stimulus damaged the economy, took previous Hillary Clinton comments out of context, misstated the facts about Social Security funding, and invoked the right-wing's myth about "partial-birth abortions."

But the issue today isn't Wallace. It's why institutions like the Commission on Presidential Debates, in the age of Trump and radical Fox News misinformation, chose to award the dishonest network with moderating duties for the first debate.

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I’ve spent a lot of time documenting the language that those in the press use — and doesn’t use — to describe Trump. So I’m always interested when people detail how they’ve made a leap into a new category of adjectives for him.

At The Daily Beast, Dean Obeidallah recently published “I’ve Resisted Calling Trump a Fascist. Not Anymore,” and explains his shift in thinking:

While Trump has embraced other methods used by fascists before—such as pitting Americans against one another to incite anger—that has been utilized by other modern politicians without veering into fascism. What changed this for me was Trump’s embrace of violence to help him remain in power. This is fascism. Period.

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Michael McDermott, “Positively Central Park”

I seem to be listening to lots of song about New York City these days — or at least songs about the mysteries of living and loving in NYC. This ode from McDermott is a gorgeous one.

From a recent review of McDermott’s latest album, What in the World: “There are eleven wonderful songs on this album (twelve if you count the acoustic demo of the title track that ends the album) and each draws you in and makes you listen deeply as the characters and their situations come to life. What in the World is 57 minutes of sheer musical delight and a masterpiece that should be in everyone’s music collection.”