The nation’s top Democrats are suddenly rushing to appear on the Fox News Channel, which they once had shunned as enemy territory as the nemesis of liberal bloggers.
The detente with Fox has provoked a backlash from progressive bloggers, who contend the party’s leaders are turning their backs on the base — and lending credibility and legitimacy to the network liberals love to hate — in a quest for a few swing votes.
In a span of eight days, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY.) and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean are all taking their seats with the network that calls itself “fair and balanced” but is widely viewed as skewing conservative.
With the party’s presidential contest reduced to hand-to-hand combat, Democrats are turning to the ratings leader among cable news channels in a clear rebuff to the liberal activists known as the Netroots.
Markos Moulitsas, founder of the leading liberal site Daily Kos, told Politico’s Michael Calderone: "Democrats are being idiotic by going on that network.”
Ari Melber, the Net movement correspondent for The Nation, told Politico by phone that progressive activists and the Netroots are “not happy about it.”
“I don’t think that it is tenable to completely neglect or ignore what your base wants,” Melber said.
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The Democratic leaders’ new openness to Fox reflects the liberal left’s diminishing power, at least at this point in the political cycle. Once feared by the Democratic candidates, these activists are now viewed at least in part as an impediment to winning the broad swatch of support needed to clinch the nomination.
Goaded in part by a taunting “Obama Watch” clock displayed by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, Obama appeared last Sunday after resisting the show’s entreaties throughout the campaign.
Clinton had a civil interview on Wednesday night with primetime host Bill O’Reilly, who has often mocked her husband.
And Dean will appear this weekend on “Fox News Sunday.”
Early in this presidential race, John Edwards led the Democratic candidates in what amounted to a Fox boycott. Edwards appeared on Fox 33 times between August 2000 and January 2007, the month after he announced his campaign, and has never been back.
Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, took the boycott in stride, commenting that more Democrats watch Fox than watch CNN or MSNBC, the channel’s cable news competitors.
Recognizing that Obama’s appearance risked incurring blog wrath, a “senior Obama adviser” vowed to Greg Sargent of Talking Points Memo before the interview that the senator would “take Fox on” during the broadcast.
But the interview turned out to be a civil give and take, with no pushback against Fox. Afterward, Sargent wrote that the pledge had turned out to be merely “a bunch of tough talk.”
“This will likely further dismay liberal bloggers who had worked very hard to get Dems to boycott Fox as a way of delegitimizing the network and who already criticized Obama for agreeing to appear in the first place,” Sargent wrote.
Network records show that since the campaign began in January 2007, Clinton has given 13 interviews to Fox News anchors and correspondents and Obama has given 10.