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Fox News Blocks Fred Karger From Debate

Conservative network changes requirements, says gay Republican candidate ineligible

Stephanie Butnick
August 10, 2011
Fred Karger.(Fred Karger/Flickr)
Fred Karger.(Fred Karger/Flickr)

Fred Karger, the Jewish, openly gay Republican presidential candidate profiled in Tablet in April, has been barred from participating in Fox News’ presidential debate Thursday. A Fox representative posits that even though Karger received nearly 2 percent in some of the most accurate polls—satisfying the debate requirement that a candidate receive more than 1 percent of the vote in five different polls—the polls were administered online and therefore don’t count.

Gawker reports:

“I spoke with Karger last night, and he sounded agitated. This is not his usual state. Previously, I’d met him at a bar — one full of gay liberal union members — and despite the bluish glow of his surroundings, Karger was perfectly at ease. Not in that greasy, back-slapping political way that makes sane people feel dirty. He was just a friendly, extroverted dude in a suit and hair gel who wanted to make friends and talk shop. But Fox’s behavior has gotten to him.

And not only because it’s unfair. Fox didn’t come up with the no-online-polls rule until after Karger had fulfilled the other requirements. As he sees it, the Grand Old Party needs him at this debate. ‘I want to be in this debate because my centrist views aren’t represented in that hall,’ he says. ‘The other candidates are very far to the right. The American people aren’t.’”

In April, Michelle Goldberg reported that Karger had spent approximately $300,000 on his campaign, much of it from his own personal savings, and that the former GOP operative had started actively fundraising and campaigning. His strategy, Goldberg explained, was to draw attention to Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s affiliation with the Mormon church in an effort to shed light on the religion’s involvement with the movement against gay rights:

“A once-powerful GOP operative with a background in attack ads and opposition research, he plans to get himself into the Republican presidential debates, where he’ll be able to call out the anti-gay politics of his fellow nominees. Homophobia blighted much of his life. Now he thinks he can use homophobia against his bête noir, Mitt Romney.”

An online petition calling for Fox News to allow Karger to enter the debate had reached 2,500 signatures as of yesterday. No word if the petition will be taken into consideration by Fox, since, you know, it was conducted online.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.