Despite a spirited campaign led by ColorOfChange.org, an online advocacy group, the Congressional Black Caucus has announced it will co-host a presidential debate with Fox News in September 2007. Is the Caucus "dancing with the devil?" Democrats had decided against participating in a Fox-hosted debate earlier this month, in part because of Fox President Roger Ailes’s recent remarks comparing Democratic Senator Barack Obama to al Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Yesterday, after news came out that the CBC Institute would be partnering with Fox, ColorOfChange.org's leader James Rucker promised to swing its 75,000 base into action:
"The CBC Institute’s decision is shamefully out of step with most Black voters, and we will continue to push on the CBC Institute to drop this deal.” Rucker goes on to say, “Every presidential candidate now must decide whether to legitimize Fox – a network that calls Black churches a cult, implies that Senator Barack Obama is a terrorist, and uses the solemn occasion of Coretta Scott King’s funeral to call Black leaders ‘racist.’ We will be launching a petition at www.ColorofChange.org asking presidential candidates to attend the CBC Institute’s CNN debate and reject the Fox debate.”
The debate Rucker is referring to is a CBC/CNN debate in South Carolina scheduled for January 24, 2008. If the CBC already has a major debate scheduled with CNN, why would it also deal with Fox -- a network that ColorOfChange.org says "consistently denigrates our people?"
Not all progressives agree with the moves to shun Fox. As Marc Cooper wrote in The Nation over the Democratic Party/Fox dust-up:
Count me among those who think the debate cancellation is a ridiculous ending to what was a ridiculous and counter-productive cause. Excuse me, but I thought liberals hated Fox precisely because it was NOT fair and balanced, because of the dearth of voices other than those from the Right. So here was a chance to force-feed the conservative Fox audience a prime-time dose of Democratic campaigning; but now that's all been called off by --- Democrats!
But many African-American leaders are agreeing with ColorOfChange.org that Fox's bias and hostility to black issues is too strong to legitimize them with a debate. BET host Keith Boykin understands there are pros as well as cons, but ultimately gives the decision a thumbs-down:
To be honest, I have to admit that I have mixed feelings on this issue. Having been on Fox News myself several times to debate O'Reilly and others, I understand the idea of going to your opponents to argue against them. And true, there might be some moderate Fox News viewers who would walk away with a better understanding of black voter concerns if they had exposure to a CBC-sponsored debate. But in this case, the idea of the CBC holding a debate on Fox News runs the risk of legitimizing a news network that many consider to be anti-black. It gives Fox News a new audience (even for a short period of time) and allows them to argue that they are unbiased. In the end, I think it helps Fox News more than it helps the Congressional Black Caucus, and that's why I'm not inclined to support this idea.
Find out more about ColorOfChange.org's petition drive here. UPDATE: Rev. Jesse Jackson announces today that he opposes the CBC/Fox partnership.