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Debated Down

(AP/Mary Ann Chastain)
It's off.

The Democratic presidential debate originally scheduled for September 23rd has been cancelled. The debate – co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute and to be aired on Fox News Channel – had already been boycotted publicly by frontrunners Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. According to the Associated Press:

Fox News and a black political group say they will not hold a Sept. 23 Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, which the leading candidates already were planning to skip.

A new date had not yet been set, Fox News spokesman Michael Murphy said Thursday.

The campaigns of U.S. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards had said they would not participate in the debate. Opponents have criticized Fox as biased against Democrats.

Keith Olbermann, no fan of Fox News Channel, advised the candidates against this a month ago. We here at Public Eye made our feelings known in May when the invitees began begging off:
America's media landscape is already polarized enough. Partisans listen to their own radio shows, watch their own media outlets and generally seek out information that reinforces their political leanings. The Democratic presidential candidates are missing out on an opportunity to get their message out, confront the channel they view as a foe, and define themselves in their own words, rather than letting themselves be defined by what they see as Fox's mischaracterizations.
This announcement comes on the heels of some Republicans' hesitation to participate in the CNN/YouTube debates. We here at Public Eye believe that whether it's Jim Lehrer or Billiam the Snowman or Keith Olbermann asking the questions, candidates should seize the opportunity to express their views in their own words in the forums available – even when there's a little bit of unpredictability involved. (And even though it seems like there's a debate every week.) Even if a moderator were to ask a candidate a biased or leading question, the PR the candidate could get for challenging the premise would show strength and poise.

If you're a bit wobbly or overly cautious on the campaign trail, what are voters to think you'll do in the Oval Office without a net?

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