Nevada Democrats dump Fox News debate

by Melinda Henneberger, Huffington Post

The Nevada Democratic Party today backed out of a FOX News-sponsored presidential debate after Fox President Roger Ailes's recent remarks jokingly comparing Democratic Senator Barack Obama to al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

In a joint letter faxed today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Tom Collins, the head of the Nevada Democratic Party, informed Fox News executive producer Marty Ryan of the decision.

"A month ago, the Nevada Democratic Party entered into a good faith agreement with FOX News to co-sponsor a presidential debate in August,'' Reid and Collins said in the letter. "This was done because the Nevada Democratic Party is reaching out to new voters and we strongly believe that a Democrat will not win Nevada unless we find new ways to talk to new people. To say the least, this was not a popular decision. But it is one that the Democratic Party stood by.''

"However, comments made last night by FOX News President Roger Ailes in reference to one of our presidential candidates went too far,'' the letter went on. "We cannot, as good Democrats, put our party in a position to defend such comments. In light of his comments, we have concluded that it is not possible to hold a Presidential debate that will focus on our candidates and are therefore canceling our August debate. We take no pleasure in this, but it is the only course of action.''

At the same Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation dinner where he made the controversial remarks about Obama, Ailes referred to the pressure to drop FOX: "Pressure groups are forcing candidates to conclude that the best strategy for journalists is divide and conquer, to only appear on those networks and venues that give them favorable coverage...This pressure must be resisted, as it has been in the past. Any candidate for high office of either party who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake,'' Ailes said, adding that the strategy would surely backfire with voters.

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards had already announced that he would not participate in the Fox debate.

His party was under pressure from the more than 265,000 people who signed a petition calling Fox "a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel" and urging Nevada officials to cancel.

Danny Coyle, a member who serves on the Executive Board of the Carson City Democratic Central Committee, yesterday offered a resolution calling on the state party to drop Fox, and it passed overwhelmingly among the grassroots Democrats in attendance.

"I am glad and relieved that the Nevada Democratic leadership has come to its senses," Coyle said in a statement. "Any kind of relationship with Fox is bad for the party."

Initially, Senator Reid had defended the decision to work with Fox, reasoning that it might help Democratic candidates reach out to right-leaning Fox viewers. But party activists argued from the start that any connection with Fox was a mistake.

Robert Greenwald, director of the movie /Outfoxed/, called the move a "victory for truth and journalism." Some 280,000 people have viewed Greenwald's new YouTube film "Fox Attacks: Obama" - located with the petition at "By standing up to Fox's right-wing smears," Greenwald said, "the patriotic grassroots, Netroots, Senator Reid, Senator Edwards, and the Nevada Democrats have all worked together to protect one of the most important elements of a free society - the press."

And Eli Pariser, Executive Director of Civic Action, said he hoped the decision would "set a precedent within the party that Fox should be treated as a right-wing mis-information network, not legitimized as a neutral source of news."

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