The Debate that Wasn't
On Jan. 13, 2007 Nevada Democrats announced a series of forums and debates including a "mid-August debate focused on Western regional issues to be held in Reno."  More details emerged on Feb. 16 when FOX News, the Nevada Democratic Party and  Western Majority Project announced they would partner to put on the debate, to be held Aug. 14.  However, controversy arose among some Democratic activists over FOX News' sponsorship of the debate. Civic Action circulated a petition asking the Democratic Party of Nevada to drop Fox from the debate.  "Fox is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel," the petition said.  "The Democratic Party of Nevada should drop Fox as its partner for the presidential primary debate."  Daily Kos was a vocal critic of the FOX debate.  On March 7 the campaign of former Sen. John Edwards said he would not participate.   On March 9 Kos reported that, "Bill Richardson just called to say that he will not be doing the Fox News debate in Nevada."  A bit later in the day Nevada Democratic leaders announced the debate would not proceed.   They cited remarks made by FOX News President Roger Ailes about Sen. Barack Obama rather than pressure from Democratic activists as their reason.

Jan. 13, 2007 - Nevada Democratic PartyPress Release "Nevada Democrats Announce Caucus Commission, Debate and Forum Dates for Candidates"
Feb. 16, 2007 - FOX NewsPress Release "FOX News to Host August 2007 Democratic Debate in Reno"
Feb. 21, 2007 - Nevada Democratic PartyPress Release "Arizona, Colorado, Montana and New Mexico State Democratic Parties to Co-Sponsor August Presidential Debate in Reno"
March 7, 2007 - John Edwards for President, Inc.: Statement
March 7, 2007 - Nevada Democratic PartyOpen Letter from Chairman Tom Collins
March 7, 2007 - Carson City Democratic Central CommitteeResolution Opposing FOX Presidential Debate
March 8, 2007 - Clark County Democratic PartyPress Release "NV Dem Party Exec. Bd Members Support August Debate"
March 9, 2007 - Nevada Democratic PartyLetter from Chairman Tom Collins and Sen. Harry Reid to Marty Ryan, executive producer, Fox News Political Programs

PRESS RELEASE from FOX News via Nevada Democratic Party, Feb. 16, 2007

FOX News to Host August 2007 Democratic Debate in Reno

RENO, NEVADA AND NEW YORK - FOX News, the Nevada Democratic Party and the Western Majority Project have jointly announced that they will host a 2008 presidential debate, which is expected to attract the top Democratic contenders for President. The debate will be presented live on FOX News Channel (FNC) and FOX News Radio on August 14, 2007 in Reno.

In making the announcement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “This is more great news for Nevada.  I'm happy FOX News will be a partner for the August presidential debate.  Western issues will be a major focus of this debate in particular. With FOX News as our partner, candidates will have an opportunity to not only speak to Nevada voters, but voters across the West who will be instrumental to electing a Democratic president in 2008.”

FOX News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes added, “FOX News is proud to be a leader in coverage of the 2008 campaign season and a co-host of this important presidential debate. We look forward to working with the Nevada Democratic Party and the Western Majority Project.”

The Western Majority Project (WMP), another cosponsor of the FOX debate, is a federally registered political action committee. WMP was recently founded to build upon the growing political strength of the West by injecting Western issues into the national dialogue and highlight the common sense, forward looking, independent values of Western voters.  WMP’s advisory council includes co-chairs Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, as well as Senators Ken Salazar, Colorado; Max Baucus, Montana; Jon Tester, Montana; and Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico and Governors Bill Ritter, Colorado; Brian Schweitzer, Montana; Bill Richardson, New Mexico.

“Westerners appreciate straight talk and someone who will fight for their values. This debate will provide an enormous opportunity for these candidates to demonstrate the independent, common sense and forward-looking leadership that westerners expect in the next president,” said Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano.

FOX News Channel (FNC) is a 24-hour general news service covering breaking news as well as political, entertainment and business news. For five years, FNC has been the most watched cable news channel in the nation and currently presents 9 out of the top 10 programs in cable news. Owned by News Corp., FNC is available in more than 85 million homes.

PRESS RELEASE from Nevada Democratic Party via Bill Buck

February 21, 2007
Contact: Kirsten Searer, Nevada Democratic Party


Reno, Nev. - In an effort to ensure that Democratic presidential candidates focus on issues important to Westerners, four key Western state Democratic parties will co-sponsor the August presidential debate in Reno with the Nevada State Democratic Party, the Western Majority Project and FOX News Channel.

The state Democratic parties in Arizona, Colorado, Montana and New Mexico will help to determine the focus of the debate to be held August 14, 2007.

"We all believe that Democrats can win the White House if we win in the West," said Tom Collins, chairman of the Nevada State Democratic Party.  "On August 14, citizens throughout Nevada and across the West will have the opportunity to hear from those Democrats running for President on where they stand on the issues most affecting our region and their solutions for solving these problems.  We believe this debate will be help our candidates not only win over new supporters in the West but also across the country.

"The Presidential election is going to have a lasting legacy in the West. Whichever political party genuinely addresses Western voters on our explosive growth and regional issues will be in the driver's seat for the region," said Arizona State Democratic Party Chair David Waid. "We are excited to work with Nevada and other Western states to bring in our Democratic candidates and hear their vision for the future."

The Reno debate is part of a Democratic effort to focus on the West. The Nevada Democratic Party will hold the second presidential caucus in the nation on Jan. 19, 2008, and Denver will host the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

# # #

On March 7, 2007 the campaign of former Sen. John Edwards said he would not participate.


From Tom Collins
March 7, 2007

Dear Nevada Democrats:

As you know, the Nevada State Democratic Party has agreed to host a debate with FOX News that has caused some concern among some of our activist allies.  Because FOX has such an editorial bias against Democrats, some of our allies believe that we should have chosen another media partner.   Senator Reid shares some of these concerns and has asked us to take another look at the parameters of this debate in order to ensure that all Democrats are comfortable as we move forward.

Our objective in hosting the August debate with FOX has not been to endorse the FOX News Channel.  Our objective with this debate is the same as our objective in hosting an early Nevada Caucus in general -- to have as many opportunities for Nevada voters and voters throughout the West to hear directly from the candidates for president as possible.  That is why our first forum was hosted with ABC News as the broadcaster, our November debate will be hosted by CNN and the final debate in January 2008 will be hosted with another outlet.

In planning the debate, the Nevada Democratic Party has been aware of the intricacies of dealing with FOX and so we secured assurances from them that the details of the debate were mutually agreed upon such as format, panelists, set design, and the assurance of an uninterrupted broadcast without commentary.   FOX has also agreed to carry the debate live on KVVU, the affiliate in Las Vegas where most Nevada voters live.  Other affiliates may follow.  We believe that these details will assure that voters have the opportunity to focus on the candidates and the issues and not the panelists or commentators for an uninterrupted 90 minutes.

Since reaching that agreement with FOX we were heartened to hear from so many people who supported our decision to reach out to voters wherever they may be, including those watching FOX News.  The state parties of Arizona, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico joined in support of our decision along with DNC Chairman Howard Dean, many members of the Nevada media and the leaders of the Nevada AFL-CIO, Culinary Union and Professional Firefighters Association.  While one of our state party’s Executive Board members has been vocally opposed to the debate, several party leaders have expressed support, including:

* Chris Wicker, Washoe County Chair:

* Tom Gallagher, 2004 candidate for Congress from NV-03

However we decided to take a step back and make our best effort to address the concerns that have been raised including:

* Many Democrats will want to watch or listen to the debate without supporting the FOX News Channel.

* There was a desire to include a panelist from a more progressive outlet, such as Air America, to ensure balance at the questioners table.

* There was also a desire to bolster a progressive media outlet, such as Air America or Politics TV that could use the opportunity to grow its constituency.

In answer to these concerns, we have secured an agreement to invite KJFK radio, the local Air America affiliate, to air the event live and C-Span will be able to carry the debate twice in its entirety after the conclusion of FOX’s broadcast.  Additionally, the Nevada Democratic Party has an agreement to invite a local progressive voice onto the debate panel.

We will also offer the ability to carry the live FOX News web cast feed on its site for one-time viewing.  If PoliticsTV agrees, this will give national viewers who do not wish to watch FOX the ability to watch the debate live while bolstering a progressive leaning organization.

With these additions, we feel that we have addressed the concerns of our activists and our own objectives:

* To keep the debate focused on the candidates and allow unfiltered access for our viewers.

* To keep the debate focused on the issues important to Nevada voters.

* To ensure that the most people possible have access to the debate and the candidates.

With these changes, we believe we have made a good-faith effort to address the concerns laid out to us and look forward to working with the candidates and our local supporters to ensuring the best debate possible.


Tom Collins
Nevada Democratic Party

Carson City Democratic Central Committee
March 7, 2007

WHEREAS, Fox News is not a neutral source of news – it’s a right-wing mouthpiece like Rush Limbaugh that smears Democrats and spreads blatantly false information; and

WHEREAS, Democrats granting Fox News the illusion of credibility would allow Fox to more easily “swiftboat” our 2008 candidates by pushing false Republican attacks into the mainstream media; and

WHEREAS, everyone supports reaching out to new people, but 1 day of Fox coverage is not worth legitimizing Fox’s misinformation the other 364 days a year; and

WHEREAS, plenty of better alternatives exist to Fox News – in Nevada, MSNBC plus its NBC affiliates, for example, get approximately double the viewers of Fox cable plus its local affiliates; and

WHEREAS, we believe that Democrats need to fight back against Fox News and the right-wing smear machine in the 2008 election cycle—not enable it.

BE IT RESOLVED, the Carson City Democratic Central Committee opposes the proposal to let Fox News host a Democratic presidential debate and strongly urges the Nevada Democratic Party to drop that proposal.

PRESS RELEASE from Clark County Democratic Party "NV Dem Party Exec. Bd Members Support August Debate"

March 8, 2007 
CONTACT:     Liz Foley
                        Chairwoman, Clark County Democrats

We, the undersigned, appreciate the efforts State Democratic Party Chairman Tom Collins has made to address concerns regarding the August presidential debate in Reno, NV.  We believe the latest proposal is reasonable and addresses most of the concerns raised by MOVEON and others.

Not all of us originally supported the idea of working with FOX, but many of us did because we know that a significant number of Nevadans - including Democrats - watch the network, and we want to use the opportunity of our early caucus to reach out to those viewers.

We all want to work together to unify our party, move forward and address the pressing issues that all Nevadans and Americans grapple with each and every day. Ultimately, that's the reason why we are all Democrats and why we care so passionately about the Nevada caucus.

We look forward to the August debate, when the Democratic presidential candidates will have the opportunity to reach out to voters in Northern Nevada and throughout the West as we focus on Western issues.

We pledge to do everything we can to ensure this debate is a success.


Chris Wicker, Washoe County Democratic Chairman

Liz Foley, Clark County Democratic Chairwoman

Cindy Trigg, Douglas County Democratic Co-Chairwoman

Lance Whitney, chair, Elko Democratic Party

Kristian Forland, vice chair, Elko Democratic Party

Ron Hibble, Lincoln County Democratic Chairman

Teresa Williams, Chair, Lyon County Democratic Central Committee

Loyal Watkins, Nye County Democratic Chairman

Teresa Benitez Thompson, First Vice Chair

Bud Orange, 2nd Vice Chairman and Douglas County Democratic Chairman

A'shanti Fayshel Gholar, Secretary

Tom Carns, Clark At-large Executive Board member

Greg Esposito, Clark At-large Executive Board member

Bonnie Jacobs, Clark At-large Executive Board member

Steve Fernlund, Clark At-large Executive Board member

Jack Mallory, Clark At-large Executive Board member

Anita Hara, Washoe County At-large Executive Board member

Mathew J. Dickson, Washoe County At-Large Executive Board Member/Treasurer Washoe County Democratic Party

Jo Ann Orange, Rural At-large Executive Board member

Ed Goodrich, Washoe County At-large Executive Board member


LETTER from Nevada Democratic Party to FOX News

March 9, 2007

Marty Ryan
Executive Producer
Fox News Political Programs
202-824-6425 (fax)
400 N Capitol Street NW, Suite 550
Washington DC 20001


Dear Marty,

A month ago, the Nevada Democratic Party entered into a good faith agreement with FOX News to co-sponsor a presidential debate in August.  This was done because the Nevada Democratic Party is reaching out to new voters and we strongly believe that a Democrat will not win Nevada unless we find new ways to talk to new people.

To say the least, this was not a popular decision.  But it is one that the Democratic Party stood by.  However, comments made last night by FOX News President Roger Ailes in reference to one of our presidential candidates went too far.  We cannot, as good Democrats, put our party in a position to defend such comments.

In light of his comments, we have concluded that it is not possible to hold a Presidential debate that will focus on our candidates and are therefore canceling our August debate. We take no pleasure in this, but it is the only course of action.

Tom Collins 
Chairman, Nevada State Democratic Party 
Harry Reid
U.S. Senator (D-NV)