Pete Buttigieg Keeps Popping the Fox News ‘Bubble’
AP Photo / Matt Rourke
If there's one person who can get Liberals to enjoy Fox News (at least briefly), it seems like Pete Buttigieg right now.
Over the past few months, the former South Bend mayor and 2020 presidential candidate has been the most famous replacement for Joe Biden, who has appeared regularly on a network that most left-wing politicians usually try to ignore or avoid. Democrats seem delighted to see Buttigieg's appearances, the videos of which have become increasingly popular online as the 38-year-old cleverly distracts the pro-Trump discussion points represented by Fox News presenters.
As such, his interviews have gone viral on social media among left-wing resistance types and have drawn the attention of political experts, democratic advisors, and extreme online celebrities.
Ahead of Wednesday's vice presidential debate, Buttigieg appeared on Fox News with anchors Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier asking him about a Democratic proposal to include aid to undocumented immigrants in a new stimulus package - an idea that would shock many Fox News Spectator.
Buttigieg, whose main Democratic debates were occasionally criticized as lackluster, smoothly flipped the argument, noting that immigrants also deserve humane treatment during a global pandemic, and reminding hosts that Donald Trump had paid less income tax than many immigrants who did worked for him.
"If you have employers like the Trump Organization who have hired illegal immigrants in the past, you still want to make sure they don't get COVID," he said. “For example, you saw the group of undocumented immigrants who worked for Donald Trump and paid more taxes than he did. The workplaces where they are located are workplaces where all different people and customers are located. I think we all agree that everyone, regardless of their immigration status, should be free from this deadly virus. "
But one particular moment seemed to resonate with Democrats online when Buttigieg struck off MacCallum's question of how Harris reconciled her previous support for Medicare for All with Biden's avowed opposition to the idea. "There is a classic parlor game in which you try to find a bit of daylight between running mates," began the ex-mayor, taking a look at the stereotypical premise "Dems in Disarray" on which her question is based. “And if people want to play this game, we could investigate why an evangelical Christian like Mike Pence would want to be on a map with the president who was caught with a porn star. or how he feels about the immigration policy, which he called "unconstitutional" before deciding to work with Donald Trump. "
He continued, “If people want to play this game, we can play it all night. But I think what most Americans want to hear is: will our families be better protected than by this president who failed to keep America safe in the face of one of the most dangerous things that ever happened in our country? "
That moment received widespread praise from Democrats and Internet celebrities, including filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who described his performance as "something beautiful".
Buttigieg went deeper into the hornets' nest Thursday morning - he appeared on Fox & Friends, the president's favorite morning show - and quietly rattled off arguments about Trump that would normally appear banned in such a blatant pro-Trump program.
"We know he's lying," the ex-mayor said confidently after host Steve Doocy interrupted him to insist that Trump denied calling US troops "losers" or "fools" like The Atlantic reported last month. Buttigieg reminded Fox's viewers that Trump publicly called the late John McCain a "loser" and faked an injury to avoid serving during the Vietnam War. "If you really believe the president now, I have a bridge to sell to you," he said, grinning into the camera.
"Sure, you're more likely to have a back and forth with Fox since it doesn't preach to the choir, but Pete enjoys that ... especially after spending the last few weeks getting into the role as Mike Pence. He knows this is a valuable way to connect with voters who otherwise might not hear our message, "Buttigieg spokesman Sean Savett told The Daily Beast." It's something Pete did during his own campaign has to swing voters and future former Republicans, and he will continue to do so when he goes on Fox as a Biden surrogate and in his interviews with branches across the spectrum. "As Democrats, we can't afford that Missing an opportunity to meet voters where they should stand up for why Joe Biden is much better equipped than Donald Trump as President of the United States. "
The performances impressed lifelong mainstream Democratic activists such as Ben LaBolt, a former national press secretary for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, who told The Daily Beast, “He's particularly adept at breaking the network's filter bubble and doing it it with the charm of the Midwest and a smile and utter destruction of the lie of the day on which Fox 'program is based. "
And ultimately, Buttigieg's Fox News hits are part of the Biden campaign's decision to opt for an easier connection with the network.
The former vice president himself has not appeared on the network since March when he sat down with Chris Wallace. He has turned down numerous interview requests and frustrated some right-wing cable news network workers. As The Daily Beast previously reported, while Biden was appearing on other television networks, the campaign turned much of its attention to local news and granted interviews with overseas outlets in key battlefield states such as Arizona, Wisconsin and Florida.
But the campaign has a presence on Fox News through the network's paid Democratic commentators, a handful of campaign staff, and national political figures such as Senator Chris Coons and Rep. Tim Ryan who have been regulars on Fox News for years. Biden's replacement and communications businesses have worked with these politicians to coordinate appearances on the network, preferring to stick largely to the more straightforward daily news broadcasts.
The former mayor became a target of the anger of the progressive left during the primaries for moving openly towards the center, seemingly changing or obscuring his stance on issues like Medicare for All, and contrasting his suit-and-tie moderation with "social “Played justice warrior” on his left.
But he continued to make himself popular with Bidenworld by being ready to go on Fox News and turning out to be a replacement for the campaign's on-air cable.
Several sources from the Biden campaign said they were delighted with the recent appearances of the Mayor of South Bend on the network. His Midwestern behavior and military background would have allowed him to flip the script on anchors not used to regularly battling a Democrat with his biography.
In several recent Fox News appearances, he used his Christian faith to question Vice President Mike Pence's religious beliefs and hypocrisy, citing his own military records as a backdrop for criticizing Trump's treatment of the military, and even citing his own mistakes in 2020 Democratic Elementary School as evidence of Biden's resilience as a candidate.
A source familiar with the Biden campaign's strategy said Buttigieg's recent interviews were the result of coordination between the mayor and the campaign's communication and replacement teams. The campaign has encouraged the mayor to appear at outlets like Fox News and has often worked to coordinate the logistics of his interviews to accommodate Buttigieg this week at the Salt Lake City hotel where the campaign has a remote control studio had set up television appearances.
Despite its recent spate of viral clips, Fox News is no stranger to the former mayor of South Bend.
During the 2020 Democratic primary, Buttigieg was one of just a handful of candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, who agreed to participate in stand-alone town hall events with the network. The mayor's camp has long tried to compete for viewers on Fox News to clearly dodge the bombastic right-wing primetime hosts, but sought to develop a message and strategy that would appeal to centrist and center-right voters who might turn out tune into the “Straight News” program.
Buttigieg's enthusiasm for the Conservative network, which often appeared to be almost an arm of the White House communications team throughout the Trump presidency, was not shared by many other Democrats.
Liberal watchdogs like Media Matters have tried to actively prevent Democrats from appearing on the network, arguing that such interviews legitimize Fox News, which they believe should be treated like an informal arm of the Republican Party. Senator Elizabeth Warren particularly endorsed this view by making the network - which she referred to as the "hate-for-profit thug" - a regular punching bag in campaign speeches and her opposition to being on the network as a tool for building her virtual network used email list.
Left-wing critics aren't the only ones who haven't received Buttigieg's previous appearances on Fox News well.
During last year's Democratic President's primary election, Trump complained about the airtime Buttigieg got on the network and lamented the lob anchor Chris Wallace had on the mayor's background.
“It's hard to believe @FoxNews Mayor Pete is wasting airtime, as Chris Wallace likes to call him. Fox is increasingly moving on the losing (wrong) side when it comes to covering the Dems. They have been fired from the boring Democratic debates and they just want to go in, ”he wrote in one such Twitter tirade.
“They forgot the people who brought them there. Chris Wallace said, "I actually think, whether you like his opinion or not, that Mayor Pete has a lot of substance ... a fascinating bio." Gee, he never speaks good of me - I like Mike Wallace better ... and Alfred E. Newman will never be president! "
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