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Fox Poll Raises Questions About Negotiations with Black Caucus

Reported by Judy - March 30, 2007 -

Did Fox News use its own poll results to pressure the Congressional Black Caucus Institute into agreeing to cooperate in a 2008 presidential debate? A pair of questions buried within the latest Fox News Opinion Dynamics Poll raise suspicions.

The poll in general was referenced on "Fox and Friends" on Friday (March 30, 2007), with emphasis on questions about whether voters would be "scared" if Sen. Hillary Clinton were elected president.

Deep within the poll (questions 34 and 35) are two questions pertaining to the issue of television networks teaming up with organizations to sponsor presidential debates. At the time the questions were asked (March 27-28), Fox News already had lost a bid to host a debate for Democratic presidential candidates in Nevada, but it had not yet reached an agreement with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute to host one in Detroit.

The first question asks poll respondents if they think "a television network that is hosting a presidential debate can influence the outcome of that debate." The poll found 65 percent of respondents (900 registered voters) agreed it could, while 28 percent said no, and 7 percent did not know.

The next question asks, "If a political party agrees to participate in debates hosted by one television network but refuses to do debates hosted by another network, do you think it is fair to say the party is picking the network it believes is more aligned with its views and so would ask easier questions during the debate?"

To that question, 66 percent said yes, 21 percent no, and 13 percent did not know. (The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points, plus or minus.)

Why would Fox News ask that question about essentially private negotiations which most of its viewers would be unaware of? Did Fox News threaten the Congressional Black Caucus with that result, promising to use those results on air and paint Democrats as trying to manipulate coverage in its favor rather than merely trying to get a fair break (which is impossible for Democrats on Fox News)?

The issue of Democrats doing debates on Fox News is not so much about whether another network would ask "easier" questions, but whether Fox News deserves to be considered a legitimate news organization, given its partisan, pro-Republican agenda day in and day out.