News organizations hosting debates for aspiring presidents can be a risky exercise. In Iowa, Carolyn Washburn, editor of the Des Moines Register, was panned as a “boring,” “rigid” and “lackluster” moderator. Clearly, her staid, school-marmish print journalism demeanor had no place in the glitzy arena of national TV. Then she stunned many when she refused to ask about Iraq or immigration – two hot-button issues.
What questions are asked, and which candidates are invited to the debates, leaves media wide open to its most frequent criticism: it’s biased. Washburn, however, should take comfort in the fact that she doesn’t work at Fox News, which recently prompted Ron Paul supporters to chase one of the network’s stars down the dark streets of New Hampshire.
Fox News barred libertarian Ron Paul from its Sunday Republican candidate forum, despite the fact that he had garnered 10 percent of the vote in Iowa – more than former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The snub prompted the New Hampshire Republican Party to withdraw its sponsorship of the debate. But it didn’t end there – not even close.
Ron Paul supporters were irate, sending angry e-mails to the network and vowing to boycott Fox sponsors. And, in an unprecedented move, the Texas congressman’s supporters – holding campaign signs and waving American flags – chased Hannity down the street screaming “Fox News sucks.” Hannity had just finished eating dinner, but still managed a brisk walk away from the mob.
It’s the kind of video that provides a deep satisfaction to anyone who has sat at home, listening to the absurd pontificating of some blow-dried, blowhard pundit, and wished they could slap a little sense into him or her.
And somewhere Washburn – her moderating misdemeanors forgotten – is smiling.
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