08/07/2007 04:07 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Edwards v. Murdoch

I was reading in the trade papers on Friday that John Edwards has called on all Democratic candidates to refuse or refund contributions from Fox News' parent News Corp. to protest its purchase of The Wall Street Journal. Calling it "the last straw when it comes to media consolidation," Edwards said "that a strong democracy begins and ends with a strong, unbiased and fair media -all qualities which are pretty hard to subscribe to Fox News and News Corp."

What's going on here anyway? Has John Edwards decided to run against Rupert Murdoch, an easier target than Hillary or Obama? Is he trying to show he is more anti-Fox than thou?

Is Edwards implying it's okay to take money from executives of Time Warner, parents of CNN, because they haven't been involved in media consolidations which once boggled the mind? Or from that Mom & Pop operation, Sumner Redstone's media monster Viacom- CBS? Wasn't ABC News' parent, Disney, imitating Pacman in the Eisner Era? And how about the little guys at GE, which swallowed NBC News without a burp? It's hard to think of one media outlet that hasn't been an eater or eaten during some of the other last straws in the gross, if not obscene, media consolidations of the 20th Century.

It seems to me Murdoch, anyway, had some co -conspirators in that WSJ deal, perhaps the real villains being the Bancroft family that took the money -and ran.

The Edwards keep-money-away- from-the-bad-guys campaign, coincidentally, is being launched at the same time as another by various public-spirited organizations pressuring advertisers to withdraw their commercials from Fox News on the grounds that it would be better for democracy not to have a Fox News.

Are Edwards and others implying the other media outlets are ideological-free zones? If you examine all of them, wouldn't you find they are all capitalist tools, as Malcolm Forbes used to proudly call his organs, avaricious, amoral, unbiased Venus Fly Traps snapping up anything not nailed down. Why not target all the media, not just Murdoch?

All of this is very puzzling to me.

Now I am not a conservative, not a stockholder in News Corp. I didn't go to Hebrew school in Bensonhurst with Rupert. I am a liberal TV critic. But I am against media boycotts on principle. They tend to have a chilling effect on free expression.

I wouldn't mind if all the networks' news organizations on my TV set and in my newspapers spoke in my voice. But I grew up at a time (before TV was a major source of news and information) when our newspapers in New York ran the gamut from Hearst to Scripps-Howard. The only paper that didn't have a right-wing bias, it seemed, was the Morning-Telegraph and the Racing Form, even there I'm not sure. I'd have to go over the charts more closely.

They were so journalistically pure in those days we barely knew who was running against Tom Dewey. Somehow Harry Truman managed to win an election.

John Edwards also led the charge of Democrats pulling out of the first debate on Fox News in Las Vegas earlier this year on the ground the news network didn't meet his standards for "fair and balance," which everybody knows is a code word for "right wing organ."

At first I thought candidates weren't showing up because they'd rather face Al Qaeda than Brit Hume. In the case of Edwards. It also might have been he didn't like the Fox hairdresser. But I have since realized it was a matter of principle.

John Edwards and other Democratic candidates who continue to boycott debates on Fox are apparently trying to isolate, marginalize and diminish the network's credibility, forcing the networks further to the right than it already may be, and make the network acceptable only to Republicans and the other hard core, conservative, far right loonies. A stupid strategy.

There are three million people who watch Fox News. Is Edwards and the other Democrats assuming they are all members of the right wing lunatic fringe? Could there not be a few viewers with an open mind who unknowingly might tune in to Fox because they like the graphics or whatever, and have an Epiphany actually hearing what the Democrats had to say?

The last thing I hate to bring up for anybody running for President who will be sworn to uphold the law of the land if elected is this: shouldn't they be familiar with the Constitution? It's not that long a document. You would think they would know at least some of the amendments. Even I know five or six of them. The first guarantees the right of free speech. I suggest that strong democracy begins and ends with respect for the Bill of Rights.

All the Democratic candidates refusing to appear on Fox News debates in the past and future should be required to take Remedial Constitution Law 101

It may be that deep down the Democratic candidates are only cowards. It is an old American political axiom that he who runs away lives to fight another day. But I think I know the political reason why the Democrats were dropping out one by one on the previous Fox debates. They are afraid their base was against Fox News. This is like Republicans pandering to the corpse of Jerry Falwell. Isn't the thing about a base in politics is that your base, by definition, has no place else to go? Otherwise it's not much of a base.

For Democrats who still have mixed feelings about jumping on Edwards anti-Murdoch-FNC bandwagon, I propose a cable network debate: CNN v. Fox. For the debate, let's assume Fox is the right wing conservative mouthpiece and CNN is the liberal Communist Network News. The debate question: who is the fairest and most balanced of all?

I see Roger Ailes in one corner for Fox. For CNN, I don't know who, since they have had a revolving door management ever since Ted Turner retired to his buffalo in Montana. Maybe we could get him to come back and call Murdoch Hitler again.

As an added attraction, I'd even invite John Edwards to play the moderator, sitting in the Wolf Blitzer Chair of Objective Journalism.