DUA: Fox News shouldn't be Involved in the presidential debates

Fox has shown itself to be a uniquely biased news source which runs counter to the principles of these debates

trump-and-hannity-op-dua-wikimedia

Fox News programs make up five of the six most popular cable news shows in the country, many of which have conflicts of interest with the Trump administration. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Fox News has been a mainstay of almost every presidential debate since the turn of the century and given their viewership and political presence — this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. It’s no secret that Fox News swings right, however, over the course of this past presidential cycle the news network has devolved into a virtual arm of the Republican party and more specifically, President Donald Trump. Almost a year out from the 2020 general election debates, one thing remains remarkably clear — Fox News as an organization lacks the basic journalistic integrity necessary to continue justifying their involvement on the presidential debate stage. 

The Commission on Presidential Debates is a non-partisan organization that has sponsored every general presidential and vice-presidential debate since its inception in 1987. Most often they enlist one of five largest news outlets to record each debate, as well as for their selection of moderators. Fox News has been included since 2000 and seeing as they are historically one of the most watched networks, this makes sense. 

Fox News should be allowed to stream and/or broadcast the debates to ensure viewership remains in-tact, however as a result of their blatant disregard of the tenants of unbiased reporting, the CPD should no longer consider the network equivalent with other news stations. 

Fox News programs make up five of the six most popular cable news shows in the country, many of which have clear conflicts of interest with the Trump administration. At a Trump rally in November of 2018, Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Judge Jeanine Pirro, at the behest of the President, each made speeches in glowing testament to the Trump administration. Following the event, Fox News sent out a message clarifying that "Fox News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events," while effectively taking no action to curb such affairs. 

This past June, Fox News host Tucker Carlson joined the President on a trip to North Korea’s demilitarized zone, in lieu of almost countless more qualified advisers, as the sole media representative. Laura Ingraham’s independent podcast is now sponsored by the Make America Great Committee. Carlson, Hannity and other Fox News personalities have repeatedly been reported to be actively advising the president on a number of issues. Out of respect for the democratic process,  such a network should not be involved with such a staple of the election cycle that has existed since the age of Lincoln. 

Since when did the “journalists” tasked with ensuring the continued fairness of our democracy be permitted to shamelessly promote their candidate of choice? And since when did a major news organization become so complacent to such obvious lapses of journalistic ethics? The answer is, apparently, since Trump was elected.  

More than 70 percent of interviews with Trump have been with Fox News and it’s clear why — many Fox News pundits are unabashedly sycophantic to the president. Take this question from Sean Hannity in an interview with the president this past June, “There is a phenomenon that people show up at your rallies. We don't see the same thing at the Democratic rallies. Why is that in your view?” In a limited interview with the most powerful man in the world, Hannity commented on the popularity of Trump’s campaign rallies and asked him why he’s so much more popular than his opponents. This isn’t journalism. 

There is an obvious counterpoint, one that Fox News has used time and time again to justify the often completely unfounded statements made by their journalists — it’s opinion. Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham and the like are considered opinion or talk-show hosts and as such, criticisms of their oft-erroneous statements are usually met with a defense of the first amendment and ludicrous accusations that Democrats are trying to roll back constitutional freedoms. 

This would be a relatively sound defense, if it didn’t completely ignore the structure and tone of these programs. Fox News hosts don’t make false opinions, they make false statements. Fox has deliberately blurred the lines between its opinion and news programming to the point where news anchors often have to correct statements made by previous Fox News hosts. Fox News has shown an almost ideological opposition to the values the presidential debates have always stood for, that is, providing unfiltered information to the public so that they may make their own informed decisions. 

The consequences of Fox News are best exemplified in their viewers. Countless studies have been conducted to determine if the rhetoric espoused by Fox News has practical effects on the knowledge and ideological beliefs of their viewers in what has been coined the “Fox News Effect.” From the myriad of independent studies conducted on the network since 2004, the results are pretty clear. 

Frequent viewers of Fox News were found to be less likely to accept scientists’ views on global warming. Judges who watched more Fox News consistently handed down longer incarceration lengths.Fox News audiences also scored in the bottom percentile when it came to knowledge of current affairs. While these correlational findings cannot prove causation, this doesn’t dismiss the fact that populations of Fox News viewers have a demonstrably warped understanding of society. 

While other major news stations are by no means exempt of partisan reporting, the transgressions committed by the biggest personalities and executives of Fox News even relative to other major news stations are, at this point, too grave to continue considering the station a viable source of news. This is especially true for something as important to our democracy as the presidential debates. In the same way The Young Turks or The Daily Wire have no place in the general election debate room, Fox News merits the same treatment.  

Maintaining the veracity of the presidential debates is of utmost importance to our democracy, so to continue rewarding an organization like Fox News with reins to facilitate these debates is antithetical to the U.S.’s media’s responsibility to hold government accountable for its actions. 

Shrey Dua is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

related stories