Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is declining to participate in a Fox News town hall, a move that comes after a number of her fellow 2020 Democratic competitors have agreed to engage with the network’s audience.
“I love town halls. I’ve done more than 70 since January, and I’m glad to have a television audience be a part of them. Fox News has invited me to do a town hall, but I’m turning them down—here’s why,” she wrote Tuesday morning in a series of tweets. “Fox News is a hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists—it’s designed to turn us against each other, risking life & death consequences, to provide cover for the corruption that’s rotting our government and hollowing out our middle class.”
Warren charged that the network “balances a mix of bigotry, racism, and outright lies with enough legit journalism to make the claim to advertisers that it’s a reputable news outlet.” She said that participation in a town hall on the network sends a signal that it is appropriate to still buy ads on the cable channel, which hosts a primetime lineup of overtly pro-Trump hosts who engage in bigoted and conspiratorial rhetoric—something she doesn’t want to encourage.
“A Democratic town hall gives the Fox News sales team a way to tell potential sponsors it’s safe to buy ads on Fox—no harm to their brand or reputation (spoiler: it’s not),” she said.
Throughout her time on the trail thus far, Warren noted that she has held town halls in 17 states and Puerto Rico, with press and voter questions at each.
“I’ve done 57 media avails and 131 interviews, taking over 1,100 questions from press just since January,” she said. “Fox News is welcome to come to my events just like any other outlet. But a Fox News town hall adds money to the hate-for-profit machine. To which I say: hard pass.”
In mid-April, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) participated in a Fox town hall in Pennsylvania, which was a ratings success and an opportunity to showcase how some of his staple issues like Medicare for All resonated with an audience in a state President Trump narrowly captured in 2016.
Following his appearance, a number of 2020 candidates eager for their own hour of free air time have been in talks with the network about doing their own town halls. Already Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has been featured in one of her own, and Fox has scheduled events with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Democrats have been grappling with how to best handle the large audience Fox commands with some thinking it is essential to directly engage. In 2018, Warren appeared on the network three times, primarily to discuss legislative work and the introduction of new bills.
The Democratic National Committee banned Fox from hosting one of its primary debates—after a New Yorker article revealed the network’s cozy relationship with President Trump—but signaled early on that it was up to the individual campaigns as to how they wanted to execute their own media strategies. The view from Warren's camp is that all the campaigns will make their own choices on when and how to engage.