Journalist Gabriel Sherman On Trump's Debate Boycott: “The Conservative Message Coming Home To Roost”

Sherman: “He's Using Their Own Playbook Against Them”

From the January 26 edition of CNN's CNN Tonight:

Video file

DON LEMON (HOST): Listen, she's right. I mean, he can ask for fair moderators, He can ask for whom ever he wants, Gabe, but that's not his role to decide who gets to ask him questions. 

GABRIEL SHERMAN: Of course it isn't his role but I think it's important to point out that Fox News is used to controlling the Republican Party and for 50 years conservatives have cried media bias and what Donald Trump has basically done is used their play book, called bias and said that I don't think your questions are fair and the audience believes him. So this is basically the conservative message coming home to roost. He's using their own playbook against them. This is a play book that Roger Ailes has employed in his 40 year career in politics. 

BRIAN STETLER: I think Roger Ailes and some conservatives would disagree with you. But I do think there's a chilling effect here with regards to journalism. Earlier, I think it was last week, maybe earlier this week, everything's happening so quickly here, The National Review was disinvited from a CNN debate that's coming up in February because of its anti-Trump issue. Earlier this year The Union Leader was disinvited from an ABC debate because of its editorials against Trump. So what we're seeing here is a series of decisions that were made that would seem to suggest if you take too harsh a stance against Trump, if Trump singles you out in some way that is very hostile, then you might not be able to participate in a debate.  And that is worrisome in a democracy.

LEMON: But Fox is taking a stand. If you're standing for journalism, you must commend them for that. Go ahead, Bob.

BOB BECKEL: Well what I was going to say, and let's just remember that Fox did buckle to Trump in another debate and two, Rupert Murdoch has been against Trump from the beginning. He's warmed to him slightly but in the beginning he came out against Trump if you remember and now he's saying he wants to meet one-on-one with somebody, as CEO to CEO. A two or three billion dollar business versus a twenty-seven billion dollar business. The other thing is, I may be dead wrong about this but I've known Roger Ailes for 35 years. That did not sound to me like a Roger Ailes tweet. Now, that doesn't mean he didn't approve it. Somebody doesn't go out there and just let that go or they're going to find themselves on the street the next day. That sounded to me like it was written by somebody else. 

SHERMAN: What I think is interesting is that Fox is pushing that Roger Ailes was writing the statement. As I reported days ago, Roger Ailes has been basically MIA this election. Sources and producers have been wondering where he is. Rupert Murdoch has been attending a critical news meeting because he wants a more hands-on role at the network. The fact they're publicly saying he wrote this statement is a strategic message strategy to say “listen this guy is still hands on, he's still relevant.” 


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