It looks like Fox News may be making the same mistake they made during the 2016 Presidential election in regards to Trump.
In the lead up to the 2016 election, Fox News as a whole was very tepid in their support of then candidate Trump. Their biggest on-air personality Bill O’Reilly was often hostile towards candidate Trump and could have almost been considered an anti-Trumper.
But worse than that was their other big on-air talent Megan Kelly, who was so outwardly hostile towards Trump that when she was chosen to be a moderator for the Republican primary debate, she ended up making it all about herself, hitting Trump with questions as if it was an interview and not a debate.
It appeared as though the top brass at Fox News in 2016 believed what most pollsters believed, that Trump would lose and they (along with O’Reilly and Kelly) were setting themselves up to be able to say “I told you so”.
But in the lead-up to the election, Tucker Carlson who was not yet doing his nightly show, was becoming more and more pro-Trump and gaining a substantial following online by doing so. Although the current Fox News prime-time line-up is mostly pro-Trump, it was not that way at all leading up to the 2016 election. O’Reilly and Kelly were both hostile toward Trump and Tucker Carlson didn’t have his show yet (it started November 14th, 2016). That really only left Sean Hannity as an outright supporter of the then Republican candidate.
But it looks like Fox News is going back towards that same direction.
This week, Fox News hosted a town hall event with none other than Bernie Sanders. There is a big difference between covering a candidate and giving a candidate a platform in front of your audience.
And they really did give Sanders a platform. The town hall seemed to be packed with hand-picked Bernie supporters. Every statement he made and proposal he explained was met with applause. Of course, I’m not saying that protesters should have been allowed into the event, but it was clear that the audience was curated and made up of Sanders’ supporters.
As I mentioned earlier, Fox News should indeed cover Bernie Sanders and cover him fairly. But giving him a full platform on the network during an event that is filled with his own supporters is crossing the line towards promotion, not news coverage.
Fox News is an admittedly Conservative news outlet and the only one on cable television. So for them to give the incumbent Conservative President’s opponent an open forum, it’s very troubling and calls the network’s Conservative stance into question.
But for many in the modern Conservative movement, this move by Fox News probably doesn’t come as a surprise at all. As I outlined earlier, they were very tepid in their support of then candidate Trump in 2016 when they were the largest Conservative News outlet and the only voice against the now corrupt fake-news mainstream media. So Fox News did Conservatives a disservice in 2016, but Trump was still able to win without their 100% support.
But 2020 will most likely be another close election. And although I believe the DNC will sabotage Bernie Sanders’ campaign the same way they did in 2016, from a political standpoint he probably has the best chance to actually give Trump a run for his money. I don’t support Bernie’s policies, but from a strictly political campaigning standpoint, he has the tools to win over a number of voters who turned to Trump in 2016. Especially those in Midwestern and Southern states. So giving Sanders such a platform was a real slap in the face to Trump’s re-election campaign by Fox News.
But don’t get me wrong, Fox News should make an effort to be fair despite being an admittedly Conservative leaning news outlet. However, a Conservative is in the White House and is up for re-election. It is not biased at all for a Conservative news outlet to support the President for re-election. But giving his opponent a platform to sell his positions to their audience is a totally different story.
My guess is that the executives at Fox News have seen the recent ratings decline of MSNBC and CNN and this was an attempt to pull in those lost viewers. But at the end of the day, Fox News is just another business, and not a voice for Conservatism.
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