Sanders takes on Fox — and emerges triumphant
Written by WPVR on April 16, 2019
Appearing at a Fox News-hosted town hall smack dab in the middle of Trump Country, the Democratic presidential front-runner played the part, swatting down tough questions from the hosts about health care, defense spending, and his newfound wealth. At one point, the Vermont senator even led the network’s audience in a call-and-response that found them cheering loudly for his policies.
The town hall took place in a cultural center in the shadows of a former steel mill here, in a county in Pennsylvania that voted for Trump after twice supporting Barack Obama. But the room was packed with Sanders supporters, and the Vermont senator fed off the energy of the crowd.
Still, the image of an audience on Fox News rallying behind the democratic socialist and his left-wing platform gave Sanders the appearance of strong support in an area that was key to the president’s victory in 2016.
For the Sanders campaign, it was an ideal end to a four-day swing through the industrial Midwest that was meant to show that he’s the presidential candidate best positioned to beat Trump. Significant numbers of Democratic primary voters are more concerned with a candidate’s ability to win than his or her ideology, according to recent polls.
Some of the difficult questions asked by the hosts, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, were about Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan.
When asked how he would fund the program, Sanders didn’t shy away from the fact that many Americans would pay more in taxes. But he insisted the “overwhelming majority” would end up spending less money overall because they would not pay for deductibles or other out-of-pocket costs. He also downplayed concerns that people would be kicked off their insurance, arguing that millions already lose their health insurance when they get fired from or quit their jobs.
His health care plan, he said, “gives you freedom of choice.”
One of the most surprising moments of the town hall occurred when Baier asked the members of the audience to raise their hands if they received health insurance through their employer. Most indicated they did. Then he asked how many would be willing to switch to Sanders‘ plan, and most people appeared to raise their hands again.
Sanders was also quizzed at length about his wealth. A half-hour before the town hall, he’d released 10 years’ of his tax returns, which showed that he first earnedmore than $1 million in annual income during the 2016 presidential campaign, in part thanks to proceeds from his books.
However, he pushed back strongly against the implication that it is hypocritical for him to be a millionaire.
Asked by Baier whether his wealth was “the definition of capitalism and the American Dream,“ Sanders said no, adding that he was fighting for “a society not where a just few people can make a whole lot of money, but a society where everybody in this country has the opportunity to live in security and dignity.”
Throughout the exchange, Sanders was largely able to stick to his message when asked about his income, charitable giving and personal taxes, saying that companies such as Amazon were paying nothing in federal taxes and that wealthy people should contribute more in order to alleviate poverty.
He parried other questions as well. When MacCallum said some would argue that Sanders supported felons’ having the right to vote because it benefited him politically, she was booed by the crowd. “Oh, come on,” he said. Asked about those who say that he is too old to be president, he shot back, “Well, follow me around the campaign trail.”
Sanders was also asked by an audience member how he would challenge the idea that “socialism is bad.”
He replied with familiar talking points: “Democratic socialism to me is creating a government and an economy and a society which works for all, rather than just the top 1 percent. It means ending the absurd inequalities that exist today.”
On the hot-button topic of abortion, Sanders‘ responses prompted an immediate rebuke from conservatives on social media. MacCallum asked him whether “a woman should be able to terminate a pregnancy up until the moment of birth.” He replied: “I think that that happens very, very rarely, and I think this is being made into a political issue. So I think it’s rare, it’s being made into a political issue. But at the end of the day, I believe that the decision over abortion belongs to a woman and her physician, not the federal government.”
As Sanders traveled to Rust Belt states that were essential to Trump’s victory this weekend, he called on the president to keep his vow to working-class Americans and ditch the new NAFTA agreement. If elected, Sanders also said he would deny government contracts to companies that outsource jobs to other countries, such as General Motors.
Sanders had a similar message throughout the Fox News town hall. He attacked Trump, arguing that he didn’t keep his campaign promise to be a different kind of Republican and avoid cutting programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Feisty and confident, Sanders ended the engagement by gently ribbing the hosts of the network liberals despise. “Thank you very much,” he told Baier and MacCallum, “and I hope I wasn’t too hard on you.”