AP Photo/Matt Rourke
- Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ Fox News town hall appeared to be a success for both Sanders and the conservative-leaning network.
- It was reportedly the most-watched town hall event of the 2020 campaign season so far, with over 2.5 million viewers.
- Search interest in Sanders skyrocketed both during and immediately after the town hall, and his campaign touted the appearance in a fundraising email the next morning.
- Several 2020 Democratic candidates are now reportedly interested in doing a town hall with Fox News.
- President Donald Trump said it was "weird" to see Sanders on Fox.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders has called Fox News the propaganda arm of the Trump administration, but he seemed to make the most of the network’s considerable influence during a Monday night town hall.
The democratic socialist from Vermont put himself and his policies on display for the Fox audience — and he may have just set a new model for other 2020 Democrats.
Sanders’ campaign is touting the Fox News town hall held Monday night in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as a massive success. "Fox tried to set Bernie up … it failed spectacularly," the subject line of a Sanders campaign fundraising email said on Tuesday morning.
After reports emerged that other 2020 candidates might follow the Vermont senator’s lead, Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, told INSIDER, "The point isn’t to just go on Fox News. The goal is to go on and successfully persuade people about your ideas … We’ll just have to see how others do."
Based on the data around the event, the rush to follow Sanders may make a lot of sense.
Search interest in Sanders skyrocketed both during and immediately after the town hall, according to Google Trends. And Sanders’ Fox News town hall was the most-watched town hall event of the 2020 campaign season so far, according to early Nielsen Media Research reports. Over 2.5 million viewers watched the Vermont senator.
President Trump watched, too. On Tuesday he tweeted, "So weird to watch Crazy Bernie on @FoxNews. Not surprisingly, @BretBaier and the ‘audience’ was so smiley and nice. Very strange…"
Rather than focusing his limited Fox airtime on Trump, the senator warned Democrats that if they spend all of their time attacking the president on the campaign trail then they will lose in 2020. He took a few jabs at Trump throughout the night, particularly on immigration, but primarily stuck to the issues.
The town hall gave Sanders an opportunity to offer his message to people across the country who routinely see him bashed as a dangerous socialist by Fox hosts like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.
Baier and MacCallum at times allowed Sanders to explain his policies virtually without interruption, meaning viewers got an unfiltered summary of where he stands.
Meanwhile, the president is weirded out and it’s not gone unnoticed.
Responding to Trump’s reaction to the Sanders town hall, Baier in a tweet on Tuesday said, "Thanks for watching Mr. President – we’d love to have you on a town hall soon — or even an interview on @SpecialReport —it’s been awhile. We cover all sides."
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