Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, attracted twice as many viewers during a town hall on Fox News as he did during a similar event on CNN, according to Nielsen ratings.
Whether or not to appear on Fox News has become a point of debate within the Democratic Party during this primary, with some candidates such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) refusing to hold town halls on the conservative news network.
Buttigieg appears to have benefitted from his decision to present himself to a more conservative viewership, with his Sunday night town hall averaging 1.1 million viewers. His CNN town hall in March, also on a Sunday night, carried an average of 545,000 viewers.
Buttigieg isn’t the first Democratic candidate to make a big ratings impact on Fox News. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pulled in 2.6 million viewers during a Monday night town hall last month. Both events drew the attention, and criticism, of President Donald Trump.
“Hard to believe that @FoxNews is wasting airtime on Mayor Pete, as Chris Wallace likes to call him,” Pres. Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday evening. “Fox is moving more and more to the losing (wrong) side in covering the Dems. They got dumped from the Democrats boring debates, and they just want in. They forgot the people who got them there. Chris Wallace said, ‘I actually think, whether you like his opinions or not, that Mayor Pete has a lot of substance…fascinating biography.’ Gee, he never speaks well of me—I like Mike Wallace better…and Alfred E. Newman will never be President!”
The debate among Democrats about whether their presidential candidates should appear on Fox News involves considering the potential benefit of speaking to conservatives from an general electability standpoint, and the potential harm that could come to a candidate’s campaign with liberal voters by appearing on a network many of them believe promotes dangerous, inaccurate, or discriminatory views.
Warren attempted to draw significant attention to her decision not to appear on Fox News, calling the network a “hate-for-profit racket.”
For Democrats who do agree to go on Fox News, it is an attempt to appear willing to reach out to a broader segment of the American public, and potentially avoid the mistakes Hillary Clinton made in 2016 when she disregarded certain categories of voters which Pres. Trump performed well with.
Tim Miller of The Bulwark wrote Monday:
As it turned out, Clinton only had to convince a total of about 75,000 people in three states that they could trust her enough that they didn’t have to waste their time leaving the house to vote for a guy they didn’t like. With the margins that close, not trying is tantamount to political malpractice. …