LAS VEGAS – Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards won't participate in a debate co-hosted by FOX News Channel and the Nevada Democratic Party, his campaign said Wednesday, as party officials tried to settle a dustup over their partnership with the cable network.
Edwards' campaign said FOX News' participation was part of the decision to pass on the Aug. 14 debate in Reno, but it also cited scheduling conflicts.
Online activists and bloggers quickly hailed the decision as a victory in their campaign to urge Nevada Democrats to drop FOX News as a partner. MoveOn.org Civic Action says it has collected more than 260,000 signatures on a petition that calls the cable network a "mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel."
FOX News Channel vice president of news David Rhodes issued a statement calling it "unfortunate that Sen. Edwards has decided to abandon an opportunity to reach the largest mainstream cable news audience in America."
Democratic Party officials and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid initially touted the partnership with Fox News as an opportunity to reach out to a different bloc of voters. But in a letter posted Wednesday on the party's Web site, Democratic Party Chairman Tom Collins said Reid now shares activists' concerns and "has asked us to take another look."
Collins said the party would invite a "local progressive voice" to participate on the debate panel, which would include a reporter from a local Fox affiliate, a national FOX News reporter and the moderator.