Fox News will leverage Sen. Bernie Sanders’ town hall to sanitize its brand

Fox News is a pro-Trump propaganda outlet, and the network’s “news” anchors are not honest brokers

Tonight, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will appear on a Fox News town hall hosted by Fox News' Bret Baier, of Special Report, and Martha MacCallum, of The Story. According to Fox News, it will be the Vermont senator's first appearance on Fox News Channel since he agreed to be a guest on Baier's show in December 2018.

Ahead of the town hall, Media Matters president Angelo Carusone issued the following statement, warning that Sen. Sanders’ appearance on Fox News will be used by the network to sanitize its brand:

Since it is well-established that Fox News is disreputable and extreme, expectations for the network’s conduct are low. Basically, as long as the hosts manage to refrain from making a full-scale attack on Sen. Sanders, some will laud them for their performance.

Don’t be fooled and don’t fall for this low-expectations trap.

Every day, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum promote the same sensationalized misinformation as Fox’s prime time shows do. For example, both Baier and MacCallum are frequent misinformers about reproductive health on Fox News. According to a Media Matters study, between March 2017 and 2018, neither Baier nor MacCallum made a single accurate claim about common abortion and reproductive rights topics. Even Tucker Carlson -- who is perhaps the network's most frequent source of anti-choice misinformation -- managed to stumble into a couple accurate claims in the past year.

Further, Bill Sammon, senior vice president at Fox News and managing editor of the D.C. unit, who negotiated the terms of the town hall and sits on Fox’s “news” side, was revealed in leaked memos to have instructed “news” staff to lie about climate science.

The separation of Fox News’ supposed “news” and “opinion” sides is a fiction. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Hosting these town halls and exploiting low regard for Fox News is a calculated effort by the network. But make no mistake: Fox News is a pro-Trump propaganda outlet, and the entire channel (not just parts of it) is steeped in bigotry, misogyny, conspiracy theories, and rank misinformation.

Advertisers recognize that this a network-wide problem, which is why Fox News is currently experiencing an advertiser crisis. Fox is struggling to meet its sales requirements for upfronts, where the channel needs to sell approximately 70% of all of its ad inventory for next year.

Fox News’ editorial decisions have driven major advertisers to flee its programming. As Fox News scrambles to avoid disaster during this key time period in which the network hopes to sell up to 70% of its ads for the year ahead, it is not the time to partner with Fox News on town halls or other events which require negotiation. Doing so will throw a critical lifeline to the network and prevent real accountability, allowing Fox News to sanitize its brand for important advertisers.