On Wednesday The New Yorker published an interview with Donna Brazile in which the longtime Democratic strategist, manager of Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign and interim chair of the Democratic National Committee (twice) defended her recent decision to become a contributor on Fox News.
As one might expect from an interview conducted by Isaac Chotiner–There should be no scarier words to public figures these days than “I’m Isaac Chotiner from The New Yorker and I would like to interview you”–the results make Brazile sound as if she has never watched Fox News before.
Asked by Chotiner why Fox wanted to have her on so badly, Brazile responds with some talk about challenges, as in “The challenges I would often have by appearing on Fox News were the kind of challenges I thought we needed…I found it challenging to be able to communicate and, you know, disagree. I wanted to get back to that period where you could sit across from somebody who disagreed with you but did it in a respectful way.”
Any longtime watcher of popular Fox shows such as The Five, Tucker Carlson Tonight, or The Ingraham Angle knows that this is not in any way how Fox works. Especially not with the occasional liberal guest or co-host. Just ask Juan Williams.
Chotiner then quotes a piece she penned for Fox’s website explaining her decision and asked if she believed Fox could help bridge the country’s divisions by being a medium for respectful communication, or if the network exacerbates the problem. Brazile says that Fox is not the only institution at fault for the degradation of public discourse. What she does not recognize is that this comment is the sort of both-sides rhetoric that has allowed Fox to flourish even as it descended into an impermeable conservative bubble. Brazile’s presence on the network gives cover to Fox by validating this view as it deepens its position as a propaganda arm of the GOP and the Trump White House.
More than a few people who have studied the issue of Fox’s effect on public discourse would disagree with her, too.
Given her defenses, it is instructive to watch Brazile’s first appearance on Sean Hannity’s show earlier this week. For 12 minutes, she and Hannity talk over and past each other. Hannity asks questions and then interrupts after a few seconds, badgering her for short answers to complex questions, mischaracterizes proposed Democratic policies (“It says in the Green New Deal that everything’s going to be free!”), and generally does the complete opposite of everything Brazile told The New Yorker she hoped to do on Fox.
There is one moment that pretty much sums up the whole experience. Hannity asks Brazile if, as part of the Green New Deal, the country “should get rid of oil and gas.” Brazile tries to give a complicated answer about the need for cleaner energy sources and thinking long-term, only to have Hannity say “Okay, got your answer,” and move on to the next question. Brazile responds with some frustration, “I can’t do this in 30 seconds, Sean! These are very important issues!”
But of course, she is there to answer these questions, which are framed in such a way as to confirm the pre-existing biases of the conservative audience, in no more than 30 seconds before Sean Hannity interrupts her. Fox News isn’t interested in letting Donna Brazile debate important issues. It is interested in having a liberal speed bag for all the hosts to work in order to punch up the ratings.
Brazile must know that deep down. She can be assured it is not going to get any better than this.
Watch the interview up top, via Fox News.