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Obama sit-down with Fox News execs came amid chilly relations with network
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday September 3, 2008

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Barack Obama sat down with the top two executives of the conservative Fox News network to demand fair treatment from the News Corp. owned outfit earlier this summer, by which time the network had amassed quite a list of transgressions against the Democratic candidate.

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz and Vanity Fair's Michael Wolff each reported details of the sit-down where Obama and his campaign aides faced off against News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and Fox News boss Roger Ailes.

The exact date of the meeting is unknown, but both reports indicate it took place somewhere around early- to mid-June.

By that point, as Obama locked up the Democratic nomination, Fox and its personalities had obsessed over his association with a former anti-war protester, labeled his fist bump a "terrorist" gesture, referred to wife Michelle as his "baby mama," spread rumors about a nonexistent videotape of an alleged rant from Michelle and featured a guest musing about his assassination.

Each of those affronts came after Obama stepped back from a de facto boycott of the network with his appearance on Fox News Sunday in late April. That hourlong interview was hardly cordial. Host Chris Wallace focused almost exclusively on the candidate's struggles with white voters, his former pastor Jeremiah Wright, questions of his patriotism and attempts to undercut his claims to bipartisanship.

In mid-June, Obama turned down an invitation to appear alongside John McCain in a town hall-style debate sponsored by the network. Fox hosts criticized Obama for his failure to appear, and Fox broadcast the town-hall -- which was stacked with McCain supporters -- essentially giving the Republican candidate an hour of free air in prime-time.

Obama returns to Fox News Thursday night for an appearance with Bill O'Reilly, the loudmouthed host who's been no fan of this or any other Democrat as long as anyone can remember.

Since the early June, sit-down with Ailes and Murdoch, though, there seem to have been fewer overt affronts from Fox personalities aimed at painting Obama as some sort of frightening, possibly anti-American other.

Wolff reported that Murdoch and the candidate reached "a tentative truce" after their meeting; whether O'Reilly keeps up the truce Thursday night remains to be seen.

For his part, though, Murdoch at least got his pick out of the Democratic primaries. The Vanity Fair scribe, who is writing a book on Murdoch, recounts asking the media mogul who he should vote for in New York's Super Tuesday primary.

"He paused, considered, nodded his head slowly: 'Obama—he’ll sell more papers.'"