The Nevada Democratic Party on Friday canceled an August presidential debate in Reno that was to be co-hosted by Fox News, citing comments Thursday by the network's chairman. Liberal activists and bloggers had been protesting the debate plans, calling the channel biased.
Roger Ailes, Fox News' chief executive, was at a broadcasters' event to receive a 1st Amendment award when he joked in a speech, according to a Fox transcript: "It is true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don't know if it's true that President Bush called Musharraf and said, 'Why can't we catch this guy?' " Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) is running for president; Pervez Musharraf is Pakistan's president.
His comments "in reference to one of our presidential candidates went too far," wrote Nevada Democratic Party Chairman Tom Collins and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a letter sent Friday to Fox News. "We cannot, as good Democrats, put our party in a position to defend such comments."
Ailes' comment fanned a firestorm over Nevada Democrats' partnership with the network.
Reid and fellow Democratic leaders had promoted the Aug. 14 debate as a way to reach new voters.
MoveOn.org Civic Action, a network of liberal activists, had called on the state Democratic Party to drop partnership with Fox, which the group calls "a mouthpiece for the Republican Party."
Fox News Vice President David Rhodes said the party's decision Friday showed that the online group owned the Democratic Party in Nevada.
"News organizations will want to think twice before getting involved in the Nevada Democratic caucus which appears to be controlled by radical, fringe, out-of-state interest groups, not the Nevada Democratic Party," Rhodes said in a statement.
MoveOn.org quickly declared victory.
"We hope this sets a precedent for all Democrats, that Fox should be treated as a right-wing misinformation network, not legitimized as a neutral source of news," Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, said in a statement.
Earlier Friday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the only candidate confirmed to attend the debate, had backed out.
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said earlier in the week he would not attend, citing the partnership with Fox as one of the reasons.