Debate Debacle

Fox and MSNBC on Hot Seat over Debatable Debate Rules
Lawsuit Possible Against Fox; MSNBC Kicks-out Candidate

Move over Karl Rove. Take the back seat James Carville. There are to new self-appointed political power brokers in town: Fox and MSNBC.

But both are on the hot seat for very debatable debate tactics.

The first debate debacle was when political powerbroker number one, MSNBC, excluded certain candidates from their debate and even went so far as to allow one of the excluded candidates to be physically kicked out of the Reagan Library by security, simply because he “dared” to get free publicity in front of the Reagan Library prior to the start of the debates, from which he was excluded. They gave him the old “Catch 22. You have to be in the debates to get on camera but you cannot be in the debates.”

What’s worse, they confiscated his press credentials so he couldn’t do any of the other 6 interviews he lined up with other networks. No appeal; he was simply shown the left foot of fellowship– MSNBC’s criteria–their rules are final over who are the MSNBC-anointed candidates.

Now the next debate is up to political powerbroker number two: Fox and their foxy rules. And Fox is up to the same “bending the rules to suit themselves.” (see legal letter below).

According to one of the excluded GOP Presidential Candidates, John Cox, Fox manipulated and changed rules to exclude him and to include other candidates who are in good favor with Fox.

So, what ever happened to good old fashioned free speech?

Don’t hold your breath with a Fox guarding the political hen house.

Background on the MSNBC Debate Debacle

In an outrageous affront to free speech in America, the Ronald Reagan Library security broke up an interview between GOP Presidential Candidate John Cox and a KNBC reporter and camera crew, in front of the Reagan Library.

This is the second time in a row that the former Chicago Cook County Republican President was locked out of the free speech process. First he was excluded from the MSNBC/ Presidential Debates. Then when he “dared” to get independent publicity prior to the debate from which he was excluded, the hammer came down again, and he was kicked off of the Reagan Library grounds-and had his press pass confiscated!

As outrageous as this is, it gets worse. Now Cox is not able to conduct the other 6 interviews that were set up to be conducted in The Spin Room because Reagan security confiscated his Spin Room pass.

The May 3 GOP Presidential Debates being conducted at the Reagan Library were supposed to have given Americans a closer look at some of the lesser known candidates like James Gilmore and John Cox. In spite of the fact that Gilmore polls at virtually zero and has virtually no money spent in the campaign, Mr. Gimore was included in the debates but John Cox was not.

Actor Fred Thompson and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also were not included in the debates but neither are formally declared candidates.

Having finished first place in a recent South Carolina Straw Poll, John Cox has been rising in popularity without the national platform of being a media darling or featured in national debates. Cox has spent nearly one million dollars of his own money on his campaign and maintains paid staff and campaign offices throughout the country. On top of this, he was the first declared GOP Presidential Candidate. So, why is he not included in the Reagan Library Debates?

The first debates are critical for all candidates, especially the lesser known candidates. It’s during these first debates that all candidates should have the opportunity to show their face to the country and let the country decide who they want to hear. Americans love to watch American Idol because it showcases a wide variety of choices and Americans get to see the elimination process early on. Unfortunately, the “behind the scenes” rule makers have made their back room decision with America’s input. The result? More career politicians never leaving politics and the fresh face reformers locked out from public view.

In response to being kicked out of the debates, Cox, said, “The American people deserve a real choice for the next president. They need to know that there is someone out there who represents their desire for real results and real reform in Washington, not rhetoric and empty promises.”

John Cox ia a Qualified, Credible Presidential Candidate

  1. John Cox was the first Republican to declare his Presidential candidacy.
  2. John Cox has been featured as a Presidential Candidate on Fox News Channel, Fox & Friends, a long in depth feature on C-Span and on hundreds of radio shows, not only on his Presidential Candidacy but also for his expertise on current news issues, including immigration reform, etc. John’s position is that CEOs should be arrested if they knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
  3. John Cox has visited nearly every county in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The campaign has mailed literature to voters and aired TV commercials nationwide. John has hired staff or organized volunteers in more than 30 states, and has campaign headquarters established in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The John Cox campaign for President has spent more than the entire third tier of candidates combined.
  4. John Cox supports the Republican Party Platform, unlike Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney-who was pro-choice before he was pro-life and pro-gay before he was anti-gay and was pro-tax before he was anti-tax. It will be interesting to see how “Flip” Romney reconciles his past and current positions on the issues during the debates. It may be more interesting to see if he’s even questioned on his flipped positions during the debate.
  5. John Cox is strong in South Carolina: John Cox finished in first place, beating out all of the other Presidential candidates recently in the Aiken County, South Carolina GOP Straw Poll, and earned 2nd place in the McCormick County South Carolina GOP Straw Poll. On April 21st, two of the largest counties in the state, Greenville and Richland, conducted a Presidential straw poll at their GOP county conventions. By combining the results from all four of these counties, John Cox finished in 5th place; defeating better-known candidates John McCain, Sam Brownback, Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich, Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, and Jim Gilmore.
  6. John Cox is strong in Iowa: A survey was conducted by The website contacted all of the Iowa Republican county chairmen during the months of February and March. According to the survey posted on the website on March 23rd, John Cox received more support from the GOP county chairmen than Tom Tancredo, John McCain, Sam Brownback, Tommy Thompson, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore.
  7. John Cox is strong in New Hampshire: Although there has been no significant GOP Straw Polls conducted as yet in New Hampshire, the Cox Campaign is well organized in that state. For impressive details regarding the Cox organization in New Hampshire, call Cox Campaign Coordinator Chris Richter at: (603) 391-4684.

About John Cox

John Cox is the author of “Politic$, Inc., Principle, not profit: why we need statesmen, not career politicians” and “Campaign for Prosperity and Renewal.”

A Chicago resident investment advisor, John attended the University of Illinois at Chicago, graduating with honors and a degree in Accounting and Political Science. He also has a law degree from IIT/Chicago-Kent College of Law, graduating with high honors in 1980.

The father of four daughters, Cox opened his first business–a law and accounting firm–in 1981. An investment advisory firm, real estate management company and a venture capital firm soon followed. During the 1990’s, Cox led the investment group that purchased Jays Potato Chips, a major regional food manufacturer and saved over 600 jobs in the Chicago area.

John has been a member of the Club for Growth since its inception, ran for Congress in 2000 and U.S. Senate in 2002. He was also the President of the Chicago Cook County Republican Organization in 2004 and is active in national politics, serving on the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

John serves as the co-Chairman of the Illinois Branch for the Coalition for Modernization and Protection of America’s Social Security System and as Chairman of the Midwest coalition for Tax Reform and Economic Growth.

Additional information is available at:

Copy of Legal Letter Sent to FOX News Channel

May 4, 2007

Via Facsimile and
Overnight Delivery
(212) 556-8219
  Via Facsimile and
Overnight Delivery
(803) 988-8444
Mr. Roger Ailes
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer FOX News
1211 Avenue of the Americas, 2nd Floor
New York, New York 10036
  Mr. Katon Dawson
Chairman South Carolina Republican Party
1913 Marion Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29201

Dear Messrs. Ailes and Dawson:

We are legal counsel for John Cox and Cox 2008 Committee, Inc.

This letter is being written to urge John’s inclusion as a participant in the First-in-the-South Republican Party Presidential Candidates Debate scheduled for broadcast on May 15, 2007. Fox News rightly prides itself on its reputation as a ‘fair and balanced’ news source. It is time to carry that promise to reality in regard to this important presidential campaign.

John is entitled to participate in the debate because the South Carolina Republican Party (“SCRP”) and FOX News have failed to adhere to the published criteria for debate participation. As a result, every South Carolina primary candidate except John was invited to participate, which is inequitable and likely illegal under the circumstances.

Mr. Dawson’s March 15, 2007 letter to the Republican candidates set forth 5 specific criteria to be satisfied for debate participation. The fifth criteria was that a candidate have “garnered at least 1% in recent state and national polls leading up to the registration deadline as determined by Fox News Channel and the South Carolina Republican Party.” Both Mr. Dawson and Marty Ryan, executive producer of political programming for Fox News Channel, as late as April 26, 2007, publicly insisted that this specific criteria would be used to ensure that if a candidate did not poll at least 1% in national and state polls they would not take part in the debate.

There are obvious journalistic ethical concerns when a news organization like Fox News becomes involved in deciding who is qualified to debate. Of greater concern is Fox News’ and SCRP’s last minute abandonment of this criteria and their arbitrary reliance upon a single Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll of likely South Carolina Republican primary voters (“South Carolina Poll”) conducted over a month ago, April 1-3, 2007 as the new polling criteria.

The only plausible explanation for this conduct is the apparent recent pressure by several of the lesser-known candidates to be included in the debate. For example, the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll conducted April 17-18, 2007, which sampled registered voters nationwide, resulted in Jim Gilmore and Ron Paul both receiving a 0% response. Neither candidate garnered at least 1% in any state and national polls, the original debate criteria established by Fox News and the SCRP. But each received exactly 1% in the South Carolina Poll, and therefore were invited to debate.

In the guise of inclusion, John was left out of the debate, simply because he did not poll at least 1% in the South Carolina Poll. Use of this poll, however, was not only arbitrary, but also improper. First, the South Carolina Poll is not recent. There are numerous state and national polls since the South Carolina Poll. Second, the South Carolina Poll did not even identity John as a candidate. Without giving John’s name there was little prospect he would garner any polling support. As a viable announced candidate, John should have been identified along with all of the other candidates in the South Carolina Poll. He was not, and therefore the polling data is biased and inaccurate.

Finally, the South Carolina Poll was conducted before the South Carolina county convention straw polls took place in the last few weeks, in which John showed significant results. He won one straw poll in an important county (Aiken) and came in second in McCormick County. John also polled reasonably well in other counties. These results are far more significant than John failing to obtain recognition in the South Carolina Poll, which would have been miraculous for any candidate given the fact that his name was omitted from the questionnaire. These poll results are particularly significant given the scant national media coverage of his campaign.

Outside of South Carolina John has also received significant recognition. A poll of Iowa Republican county chairman shows John in the top five of their favorite candidates. This and the South Carolina results are evidence of a viable and serious campaign, not a fringe campaign that fails to represent the views of the average American. Again, this survey shows that there is significant support for John and his message, even though he is not regarded in the national media as a serious candidate.

After a year of hard work and demonstrating his passion, sincerity and qualifications, John is in a catch-22 worthy of Joseph Heller’s classic novel. He is being excluded from the debate because he does not meet Fox News’ arbitrary poll results (which didn’t even include his name as a candidate), but John can’t get in the polls because Fox News and the rest of the national media has virtually ignored his campaign and refused to even acknowledge he is a candidate.

We urge Fox News and the SCRP to reconsider John’s exclusion from the debate and do the right thing by giving the American people a full choice. It is troubling to contemplate that Fox News in concert with the SCRP, instead of fairly reporting the news, is manipulating the political process in this country by filtering who is and is not a “serious candidate.” Shouldn’t this be left to the American people to decide after they have had the opportunity to learn about all the viable candidates, not just those that Fox News and the SCRP want them to know about? Nothing less is simple media distortion. It is not the job of Fox News to make the news, but to report it.

Failure to immediately include John will result in the filing of a federal lawsuit naming both Fox News and the SCRP as defendants. The suit will seek, among other things, a temporary restraining order and request for a permanent injunction to prohibit the debate from proceeding on May 15th on the grounds that John’s civil rights have been violated.

Under South Carolina law, the SCRP conducts the statewide presidential preference primary, and the debate is part of this process. Therefore, state action is present, and the principles of due process and equal protection of the laws must be followed. To date, FOX News and SCRP have acted capriciously and arbitrarily in determining which candidates will be allowed to participate in the debate. Under the original criteria, at least several candidates would be ineligible, and by using a single arbitrary Fox News poll that excluded him, John was selectively excluded despite evidence of the viability of his candidacy in South Carolina. This violates due process and equal protection.

Lawsuits are a serious process, but access to the courts to correct injustice has and always will be a cornerstone of this republic. If necessary, John is prepared to file suit to protect his rights and his efforts to bring real change to America. We trust that thoughtful deliberation and inclusion of John as a debate participant will avoid litigation and its adverse results.

Very truly yours,

Christopher D. Oakes
Cc: John Cox