Rising star Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s performance in a Fox News Town Hall drew applause from the audience when he attacked Fox News and some of its hosts, but it also drew mixed reactions from both conservative and liberal viewers.
Hosted by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, the town hall, held on Sunday in Claremont, N.H. drew 1.1 million viewers across the country.
During the event, Buttigieg spoke on candidate qualities, including experience and diversity, and policy areas like abortion and tax reform. The most eye-catching moment was his critique of Fox News and its anchors. He criticized political commentator Tucker Carlson for saying immigrants make this country dirty and talk show host Laura Ingraham for comparing children’s detention camps at the border to summer camps.
"There is a reason why anyone has to swallow hard and think twice about participating in this media ecosystem," Buttigieg said. "Even though some of those hosts are not there in good faith, I think a lot of people tune into this network who do it in good faith."
While these comments drew applause from the live audience, the response was not so kind from conservative viewers and Fox News hosts.
“Don’t hop on our channel and continue to put down the other hosts on the channel,” said Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade. “If you feel that negative about it, don’t come. For him to go out there and take shots on our prime-time lineup, without going on our prime-time lineup, shows to me absolutely no courage.”
Buttigieg’s performance also drew attention from President Donald Trump, who tweeted that Fox is “wasting airtime on Mayor Pete.”
When asked about dealing with tweets from the president, Buttigieg simply responded, “I don’t care.” Wallace countered by pointing out that Twitter is a “very effective way to reach tens of millions of Americans.”
“It’s a very effective way to command the attention of the media,” Buttigieg responded. “And I get it. Look, it’s mesmerizing, it’s hard for anybody to look away, me too. It is the nature of grotesque things that you can’t look away.”
While Buttigieg received criticism from conservatives for his statements during the town hall, he was also criticized by Democrats for simply agreeing to do the debate. Elizabeth Warren refused to do a Fox Town Hall, saying the network is a “hate for profit racket” that has mixed "bigotry, racism and outright lies with enough legit journalism to make the claim to advertisers that it's a reputable news outlet." The Democratic National Committee even blocked Fox News from hosting a Democratic primary debate.
Buttigieg, however, stressed the importance of going on Fox News and said that Democrats can’t criticize Fox viewers for “ignoring our message because they will never hear it if we don't go on and talk about it."
This sentiment is shared by Medill sophomore and news director for the Northwestern News Network Joey Safchik. She believes reaching out to the Fox News base and gaining notoriety is worthwhile, even if the values of the network don’t align with the candidate’s platform.
“Whether you like it or not, Fox News has a sizable audience, and the only way to reach people is by taking advantage of the media that’s out there,” Safchik said. “I don’t think it would be anything that should make or break a candidacy… I think just the appearance or choosing not to appear is valid either way.”
Buttigieg is now the third Democratic candidate to do a town hall on Fox, joining the ranks of Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar. Kirsten Gillibrand is set to appear in one on June 2, and Beto O’Rourke has said he would be open to one.