On Wednesday, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto hosted a segment on his Fox Business show slamming the NBC/Politico debate next week for refusing to include GOP presidential candidates like Rep. Thad McCotter (R-MI) and former Gov. Gary Johnson (R-NM). Cavuto called the exclusion “the real scandal,” and made a refreshing and legitimate observation: “How can groundbreaking ideas ever get through if we don’t let the guys offering them break them?”
His demand that networks “invite all” candidates was joined by McCotter as a guest to the program:
CAVUTO: Alright forget the controversy over when the president’s big speech on jobs will take place and if it conflicts with next week’s GOP debate. I think the real scandal is who won’t be in that particular debate like last night’s guest on this very show, Gary Johnson. He’s a guy with a real resume, two-term very successful governor of New Mexico. Real ideas, dramatic ideas, on how to fix this financial mess. The debate organizers are saying Johnson and others don’t track well enough on polls to be included. They say eight is enough for the event and that young man is not going to be at the event.
So I’m calling this podium-gate. Why not just add more podiums for legit candidates? [...] Surely the TV networks — I don’t care how dire and poorly off they are — can figure out how to shoot a slightly more crowded stage. How can groundbreaking ideas ever get through if we don’t let the guys offering them break them? [...] My point is, invite all.
Cavuto and McCotter are right. The polling criteria used by most major networks to select debate participants is a catch-22 because polling generally reflects name identification, which depends largely on media coverage and debate inclusion. In addition to generally expanding the number of debate participants, a different way to choose would be to poll using political positions, policies, and biographies — without the name of the candidate — to gauge the American people.
However, Cavuto’s righteous rant isn’t without incredible hypocrisy. Earlier this year, Fox News hosted a Republican debate and used nearly the same criteria as Politico/NBC. Fox News refused to allow GOP presidential candidates former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer and former political consultant Fred Karger into their debate. Many have alleged bias, especially since Roemer has unorthodox conservative ideas, and is running on a platform of cleaning up corruption and corporate influence in government, while Karger is a pro-gay rights Republican.
Later this month, Google and Fox News are teaming up to host a Republican debate on September 22. Few details have been released. Given Cavuto’s demand for more inclusion, the question viewers should ask is, “Will Fred Karger, Thad McCotter, Buddy Roemer, Gary Johnson and other candidates be included in the debate?” As Cavuto noted, giving candidates like these a platform is the only way to infuse “real ideas” into the discussion.