Democrats bar Fox News from moderating debates after reported Trump ties

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday said it will not allow Fox News to host any of its candidates’ political debates through 2020, citing a report this week about the conservative channel’s ties to U.S. President Donald Trump.

A Fox News channel sign is seen at the News Corporation building in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

“Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement provided to Reuters.

“Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates,” Perez said in a statement.

Representatives for Fox said they hoped the DNC would reconsider and let some of its journalists moderate a Democratic presidential debate.

Trump responded to the announcement by saying he may refuse to participate in certain debates.

“I think I’ll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!” he said in a Twitter post.

Trump has criticized CNN and MSNBC, among other media, as “Fake News” for their coverage of his administration.

The DNC’s decision is a rerun of the 2016 primary election, when it turned down Fox’s multiple offers to host a debate, citing the network’s longstanding conservative bent and prominent criticism of Democratic policies. At that time a Democrat, Barack Obama, occupied the Oval Office.

Trump, a Republican seeking re-election in 2020, has stoked polarization between the two U.S. political parties by appealing to his base on Twitter and television and policy speeches while simultaneously publicly attacking and feuding with prominent Democrats.

The New Yorker earlier this week reported on “seamlessly” close ties between Trump and the television network founded by Rupert Murdoch, citing an expert on presidential studies who said Fox is the “closest we’ve come to having state t.v.”

The article went on to describe the access and interviews that members of the White House have granted exclusively to the network.

As the field of competition to become Democrats’ next presidential nominee grows ever more crowded, the party has decided to split its first primary debate over two weeknights this summer. Twelve people have already jumped into the race and the DNC has capped each debate night at 20 candidates.

The party’s primary debates this year will mark a sharp reversal from its last round of contests, when less than half a dozen politicians appeared at a handful of debates that were televised on Saturday nights and other times with notoriously low television viewership.

Reporting by Jim Oliphant, Sheila Dang, and Lisa Lambert; writing by Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert; editing by Bill Berkrot, James Dalgleish and Sonya Hepinstall