Federal Authorities Were Ready to Punish Fox News for ‘Happy Hour’ Debate

By Chris Ariens 

Last August, when there were 17 Republican candidates for president, and the RNC selected Fox News to host the first debate, the network decided to split the debate in two: the 10 top candidates would go in prime time and the other 7 would take part in a second, one-hour debate in the late afternoon, what became known as the happy hour debate.

A month later, CNN did the same, hosting two debates on Sept. 16. FBN did it too, in November.

But it was Fox News that was in the cross hairs of the Federal Election Commission. The FEC took up a vote after it received a complaint that changing the original rules, and splitting the debate in two, was an illegal corporate contribution to the 7 candidates in the earlier debate.


The 6 members of the commission, who were appointed by the president, then voted. Three Democratic members voted to punish Fox News, while three Republican commissioners voted against. Because it was a tie, the action went nowhere.

Republican commissioner Lee Goodman told FoxNews.com, “All press organizations should be concerned when the government asserts regulatory authority to punish and censor news coverage. How could expanding debate news coverage from 10 to 17 candidates be against the law?” he said.