DNC making 'mistake' by barring Fox News from hosting presidential primary debates: former chair

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Ed Rendell has criticized his own party’s move to block Fox News Channel from televising any of its debates in 2020.

Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania, slammed the decision during an interview on Fox News’ "The Ingraham Angle" on Thursday night.

“I think it’s a mistake for the DNC to do what they did. If I was DNC chair – and I think Tom Perez is doing a good job – but if I was DNC chair, Laura, I would say, ‘give me Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and Juan Williams and you can have that debate anywhere, anytime, any number of times.'

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“I’d be confident it would be fair," the onetime Philadelphia mayor added. "If we could pick the commentators and the moderators, I think we should have the debate on Fox. Because let me tell you, even if you persuade three percent of Fox viewers, three percent last time out carries Michigan.”

Ingraham then showed a clip of Perez during a CNN interview saying he “wants to make sure the debates are focused on the issues,” before airing highlights of Wallace and Baier grilling President Trump during a Republican primary debate and presidential debate in 2016.

“Those are all examples, of course, of Fox News anchors being more than tough and probably fair with President Trump, candidate Trump,” Ingraham said.

The interview came just hours after Fox News urged the party to reconsider the decision.

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“We hope the DNC will reconsider its decision to bar Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, all of whom embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism, from moderating a Democratic presidential debate. They’re the best debate team in the business and they offer candidates an important opportunity to make their case to the largest TV news audience in America, which includes many persuadable voters,” Fox News Senior Vice President Bill Sammon said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Perez announced the party would not allow Fox News to host primary debates, claiming they would not be “fair and neutral” forums for the candidates.

“I believe that a key pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach all voters,” Perez said in a statement to The Washington Post that cited a critical article in The New Yorker. “That is why I have made it a priority to talk to a broad array of potential media partners, including Fox News. Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.”

While some Fox News Channel opinion hosts have come under fire for their coverage of the Trump administration, Wallace, Baier and MacCallum are anchors from the news division who have been praised for their handling of past debates. In 2016, Wallace moderated a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

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Reacting to the DNC’s decision, Baier tweeted Wednesday, “That’s really a shame. When it comes to fairness - our news product speaks for itself. We will continue to cover this 2020 race fairly & will continue to invite Democrats- Republicans & Independents on to talk about key issues & substance with our very large viewing audience.”

The DNC announced last month that NBC News will host the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 election cycle in June. Back in 2016, the Republican National Committee famously pulled out of a planned NBC News Republican primary debate after a similar event on CNBC was criticized for allegedly unfair questions.

Fox News' Brian Flood contributed to this report.