Nevada Dems Nix Fox Debate

Ryan Grim
The Politico
Friday, March 9, 2007

The Nevada State Democratic Party is pulling out of a controversial presidential debate scheduled for Aug. 14 in Reno and co-hosted by Fox News, according to Democratic insiders.

The debate was being hosted by Fox News Channel and Fox News Radio, the Nevada State Democratic Party and the Western Majority Project.

A Fox spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said Wednesday he would not participate in the debate, citing Fox's conservative ties as a factor. His deputy campaign manager, Jonathan Prince, sent an e-mail to the liberal website DailyKos, which was posted on the site.

“We’re definitely going to debate in Nevada, but we don’t see why this needs to be one of them,” it read.

The state party has been under pressure from progressive activists across the country, led by MoveOn.org, to cut its ties with the debate.

According to MoveOn, more than 265,000 people signed a petition sent to the Nevada State Democratic Party. The organization launched a website -- http://foxattacks.com/ -- as part of its campaign.

FOX News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes gave the progressive activists more ammunition on Thursday when he jokingly compared Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, to Osama bin Laden.

In announcing the event, a statement posted by the state Democratic Party has Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offering high praise of the debate partnership with Fox.

“This is more great news for Nevada,” he said in the statement. “I'm happy FOX News will be a partner for the August presidential debate. Western issues will be a major focus of this debate in particular. With FOX News as our partner, candidates will have an opportunity to not only speak to Nevada voters, but voters across the West who will be instrumental to electing a Democratic president in 2008.”

Ailes lauded the idea, too: “FOX News is proud to be a leader in coverage of the 2008 campaign season and a co-host of this important presidential debate. We look forward to working with the Nevada Democratic Party and the Western Majority Project.”

State Democratic party chairman Tom Collins, in a letter posted on the party web site Wednesday, said Reid now shared activist concern about the event. Collins wrote the Reid "has asked us to take another look."

A spokeswoman for the state party did not immediately return a call.

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