Fox News Is Laying The Groundwork For Trump To Skip Out On Presidential Debates
Published with permission from Media Matters.
Fox News figures are helping rationalize Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s threat that the 2016 presidential debates must have “fair” moderators or he won’t participate, pointing to Candy Crowley’s 2012 debate moderation in which she fact-checked Republican candidate Mitt Romney as an “unacceptable” example. But Fox’s attacks on Crowley are based on a lie, and they’re helping lay the groundwork for Trump to justify withdrawing from the debates.
Trump Says He Might Try To “Re-Negotiate” Debate Terms For “Fair Moderators”
Trump: “I’ll Have To See Who The Moderators Are. Yeah, I Would Say That Certain Moderators Would Be Unacceptable.” Time magazine reported that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “will commit to three debates this fall with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, but may try to re-negotiate the terms that have been agreed upon by a bipartisan commission.” Trump told Time, “‘I’ll have to see who the moderators are. Yeah, I would say that certain moderators would be unacceptable, absolutely.’” [Time magazine, 8/9/16]
Fox News Figures Justify Trump’s Threat, Pointing To Candy Crowley’s 2012 Debate Moderation
Fox’s Eric Bolling: “That’s Your Right” To Negotiate Moderators And Make Sure There’s No “Candy Crowley Situation.” After Fox regular Rudy Giuliani said that “what we are going to negotiate is — we’re not going to walk into a Candy Crowley situation,” — referring to the 2012 presidential debate where moderator CNN’s Candy Crowley interjected to correct Mitt Romney’s false attacks on President Obama. Fox host Eric Bolling responded, “And that’s your right. That’s typical debate negotiations.” Giuliani added that “we’re not going to fall into the trap that [2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt] Romney fell into with Crowley … . We’re not going to have some moderator do that to us.” From the August 11 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
ERIC BOLLING (GUEST HOST): You know, this business about going up against the NFL, that’s not going to become an issue? It’s done? That’s been fixed?
RUDY GIULIANI: He is going to be there, he’s going to be there for the debates. What we are going to negotiate is — we’re not going to walk into a Candy Crowley situation. After all, we are New Yorkers. We are not suckers.
BOLLING: And that’s your right. That’s typical debate negotiations that go on at every level, primary level as well. It’s a give and take on who can moderate? Is that what it is?
GIULIANI: I used to — I participated in 11 primary presidential debates and we negotiated the size of the podium, how much time you get. Stuff like that.
GIULIANI: This time we’re going to negotiate moderators because we’re not going to fall into the trap that [2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt] Romney fell into with Crowley when she announced that Obama was right and Romney was wrong and it turned out the next day that it was the other way around. We’re not going to have some moderator do that to us.
BOLLING: I always said Romney should have had that in his back pocket to know that she was wrong. He could have fought back a little bit harder. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor,8/11/16]
Fox’s Charles Krauthammer: If The Moderators “Are Unacceptable,” Like Crowley, “You Can Say I’m Not Going To Participate Unless We Get Somebody Else.” Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer, calling Crowley’s debate moderation “shameful,” said, “I think it’s very important for the commission to think very hard about who would be acceptable to both sides.” Krauthammer added that “if they are unacceptable, you can say I’m not going to participate unless we get somebody else.” Fox contributor Laura Ingraham also said that “people were furious” about Crowley’s debate moderation and that picking debate moderators is “the more interesting question” than that of scheduling conflicts with the NFL. From the August 10 edition of Fox News’Special Report with Bret Baier:
LAURA INGRAHAM: I think the more interesting question here, Chris, is what the Republicans have been concerned about in the past. Remember, Romney, in the national poll average, I was looking back at this before the show, was six points ahead going into that Candy Crowley debate. And everybody remembers the transcript Candy moment on Benghazi, and people were furious. Candy Crowley ultimately said that Romney had had a good point except in the wording of what he said about the act of terrorism.
CHRIS WALLACE (GUEST HOST): But let’s just point out that in the debate she seemed to side with Obama.
INGRAHAM: Right, exactly. So that infuriated Republicans and some people believe that really turned the tide against Romney. I don’t know if it did or didn’t.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The real issue is who moderates. And the Candy Crowley moment, I don’t know if it was decisive one, but it was shameful. She clearly took the side of Obama and she was wrong, which made it even worse. So I think it’s very important for the commission to think very hard about who would be acceptable to both sides. Generally speaking, the media overwhelmingly liberal, so if you are going to take a random sample you are going to get liberal moderators who will try to be objective, but in the end it’s very hard to be. So I think it’s important to make the point that we are going to be watching very carefully who the moderators are, and if they are unacceptable, you can say I’m not going to participate unless we get somebody else. Ask a bunch of respected, retired judges to be the ones who choose. [Fox News, Special Report, 8/10/16]
Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle: Trump “Reserves The Right To Renegotiate If He Feels” The Moderators Won’t Be “Fair And Balanced.” Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle said that “Trump is worried the same will happen to him,” referring to Crowley’s debate moderation, and added, “He wants them to be fair and balanced. He reserves the right to renegotiate if he feels in fact they are not.” From the August 11 edition of Fox News’ The Five:
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): We all remember when Candy Crowley took President Obama’s side while moderating a 2012 presidential debate. This time around Donald Trump is worried the same will happen to him when he faces off against Hillary Clinton. He has agreed to participate in all three general election debates, but warns he may try to renegotiate the terms if it’s not fair and balanced.
Dana, so he wants to do the debates. He wants them to be fair and balanced. He reserves the right to renegotiate if he feels in fact they are not. How should this play out? [Fox News, The Five, 8/11/16]
Fox Contributor Karl Rove: Crowley’s Debate Moderation “Caused A Lot Of People To Be Concerned About The Impartiality Of The Moderators.” Fox contributor Karl Rove said that “in recent years, there have been questions” about whether the 2016 presidential debates can have a fair moderator, pointing to “Crowley getting herself involved in that  debate.” Rove said her moderation “caused a lot of people to be concerned about the impartiality of the moderators.” From the August 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (HOST): Donald Trump says now he’s happy to do three debates if there’s a fair moderator. How often does that actually happen where there’s a fair moderator, fair to the various candidates?
KARL ROVE: Well, look, we used to have in the 20th century a general consensus that the moderators were fair and impartial. Jim Lehrer, for example, had a great reputation of being an impartial moderator. But in recent years there have been questions. I call it the Crowley effect, Candy Crowley getting herself involved in that debate, seeming to take, seeming to correct Mitt Romney. She was wrong, he was right in the debate. It has caused a lot of people to be concerned about the impartiality of the moderators. That’s only been made worse by the performance of some of these moderators in the Democratic and Republican presidential debates where they appeared to be unfair. So there’s a lot of concern about it. I’m not certain there’s an easy solution. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/11/16]
But Fox’s Attacks That Crowley Wasn’t “Impartial” Are Premised On A Lie
Crowley In 2012 Presidential Debate Corrected Romney’s False Attack On Obama. During a 2012 presidential debate between Romney and President Barack Obama, Romney claimed that “it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror,” when in fact Obama had used that language the day after the attack. Crowley interjected, saying, “He did call it an act of terror.” Right-wing media figures subsequently lashed out at Crowley, calling her “disgraceful” and comparing her to a “suicide bomber.” [CNN.com, 10/20/12; Media Matters, 10/19/12]
Obama Did In Fact Use The Term “Act Of Terror” The Day After The Benghazi Attacks. Discussing the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, the day after they occurred, Obama said, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.” [Remarks By The President On The Deaths Of U.S. Embassy Staff In Libya, The White House, 9/12/12]
Crowley Debunked Right-Wing Claims That She Later Walked Back Her Fact Check. After Crowley faced harsh criticism from conservatives over her correct fact check of Romney, she addressed the situation, saying, “So we knew that the president had said, you know, these acts of terror won’t stand or whatever the whole quote was.” She conceded that Romney was right in saying that it took the administration two weeks to clarify the cause of the attacks. Right-wing media claimed that Crowley was walking back her fact check, but she quickly debunked that narrative. [Media Matters, 10/17/12]
Photo: Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly poses on the set of his show “The O’Reilly Factor” in New York March 17, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid