Fox News’ GOP Debate Won’t Let Out Gay Candidate Fred Karger In

The 2011 Ames Straw Poll — the most important pre-Iowa Caucus straw poll in the state, and one of the first real indicators of how the GOP nomination might turn out — will take place on August 13. On August 11, the GOP candidates will debate major issues publicly on national television. Not all of the candidates will be there, though — for instance, Fred Karger, the openly gay candidate, who wasn’t included in either the straw poll or the FOX Network debate.

The debate has specific requirements that each candidate must meet in order to participate — after all, virtually anyone can run for President, and a debate would be unproductive and meaningless with dozens of participants, most of whom have no chance of being elected. To make the cut, Fox News provides a set of criteria based on poll numbers, and if a candidate doesn’t have high enough numbers, he or she is out. But Fred Karger is arguing that that’s not the case here. Here’s his letter to Iowa GOP Chair Matt Strawn:

I am a declared Republican candidate for President of the United States who meets all of the requirements to participate in the Fox News Debate on August 11, 2011 in Ames Iowa.

Your criteria states:

Candidates must satisfy the following by 4 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, August 9, 2011

1. Registered with the Federal Elections Commission as a presidential exploratory committee or presidential campaign.

2. Meet all U.S. Constitutional requirements.

3. Garnered at least an average of one percent in five national polls based on most recent polling leading up to the registration day.

Attached is a new national poll that came out yesterday.  It was conducted by Harris Interactive, sample size 1,168 that was in the field between August 2 – 4, 2011.  The Harris Poll tested all 12 major declared Republican candidates for President.  I am at 2%, tied with former Governors Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman.  With this latest national poll, I now meet your objective criteria of averaging at least 1% in five national polls.

I look forward to participating in the August 11, 2011 debate in Ames, Iowa and await all details.

Thank you for hosting the Republican debates.

Fox’s reply claims that since the polls Karger references here are online, the results don’t count, and he still isn’t qualified to participate in the Ames debate. However, if one reads the fine print (or lack thereof), you’ll find that Fox doesn’t actually specify anywhere what kind of polls candidates can use to qualify.

“Karger, in an interview, said Fox News did not specify in its criteria what polls it would accept. He said he did not file complaints about his exclusion from the New Hampshire or South Carolina debates because the criteria either required a higher percentage or listed specific polls… We could spend a lot of space on whether online polls are credible. But since Fox’s written criteria don’t define a poll, Karger and McCotter have room to complain.”

Karger has said that he will file a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission if he’s not offered a place in the debate tomorrow. Karger’s platform breaks with the Republican party line on several issues, like a path to citizenship, making American foreign policy more conciliatory, and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is that why he’s seemingly being stonewalled? Is this truly about an unfortunate and unintended miscommunication about a set of criteria? Or is this about Fred Karger’s being the only gay candidate? Thaddeus McCotter, referred to above, was also excluded from the debate — in his case, he was able to participate according to the criteria of a central planning committee co-sponsoring the debates, but Fox didn’t accept those criteria. Events like these are always complicated, and it can be difficult to place blame. But as Karger points out, “(Clemente) said I had to be in five recent polls, but he said the ones I were named in didn’t count ecause they were online or out of date. But when (former New Mexico governor) Gary Johnson was let in to the South Carolina debates, they went back five months to allow him in.”

Karger has created LetFredIn.com to gather support, and today launched a public petition drive that you can sign if you’d like to support his presence in the debate.

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

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32 Comments

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      I don’t actually think this is about homophobia. Or not mainly about homophobia. Karger has made it clear that he believes he has no chance of getting the nomination, and his campaign is about keeping Mitt Romney from getting it. He is looking for opportunities to ruin Romney’s credabity. With Romney as one of the top contenders I can see why FOX News would want to protect him.

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      I’m wondering the same thing. Usually front runners appear pretty early and there can be some shuffling at the front of the pack, but I don’t think people usually come from behind. At least not in modern American politics. I can’t see how it’s anyone other than Mitt Romney at this point. I mean, Bachmann could win the nomination based on the very nature of a party primary, but she can’t win a general and Repubs have to know that.

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          I forgot about Perry. He hasn’t officially announced yet, right? He would be a fundraising powerhouse, I think. It’s not all up to him as chair, but the RGA pulled impressive numbers for this most recent filing period. Conservatives do like him. I don’t know him that well, honestly, but he comes across as a strong leader. To me personally he looks like he’d make a great villain in a movie, but Perry is definitely more viable than Bachmann. Coming from Texas wouldn’t hurt either. I guess we can look forward to oppo research dropping soon about fucked up things he has said, because you know they are out there.

          In my post below, I forgot Ron Paul. Which, you know… LOL. God love him.

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    I haven’t followed the 2012 presidential stuff super close, but to be fair, I have never heard of Fred Karger but I have at least heard of both Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman. I think that’s Fox News’ real angle. Maybe I am giving them too much benefit of the doubt, but I don’t think they want people turning on the debate and seeing some dude they have literally never even heard of. There’s already how many people in it? Romney, Bachmann, Huntsman, Pawlenty and… is Santorum in it? I don’t think our political system necessarily succeeds in finding the best leaders for our country, but any problems with the process are bigger than this one debate and I’m fine with them rejecting Karger.

    “The debate has specific requirements that each candidate must meet in order to participate — after all, virtually anyone can run for President, and a debate would be unproductive and meaningless with dozens of participants, most of whom have no chance of being elected.”
    No kidding. Did anyone watch the NY governor’s debate? To be fair, the actual Republican nominee was sort of a hot mess all on his own, but the debate was (now) Gov. Cuomo, teabagger Carl Paladino, a former hooker, the crazy guy from the Rent Is Too Damn High Party and a generally likable but forgettable white guy who I literally thought was a super-white-looking black guy and some dude dressed like he was going to do yoga or something. It was awesome for entertainment, but really showed how badly democracy failed for the 2010 gubernatorial race. Cuomo has done some stuff I like (hello gay marriage), but he could not be more entrenched in NY politics already and probably has his share of corruption or play to play shit. At the very least Cuomo should’ve had a) a viable opponent b) a real debate where he had to answer tough questions. The 2010 gubernatorial race was honestly too easy, to me.

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    Okay, so politics is really just about feelings, so here are mine:

    I’m grossed out that Fox is being so grossly and blatantly homophobic. I’m wholly unsurprised that the GOP isn’t fighting for his inclusion in the debate. I would like to conclude by expressing a heartfelt “fuck you very much” to queer Republicans everywhere.

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    Fox News isn’t a person, so it’s kinda weird to call a thing homophobic. Roger Ailes is a total homophobe though. On the other hand, Shep Smith is gay.

    That said, Fox News is an arm of the Republican Party and Fred Karger is a saboteur.

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    Rachel, I believe you write thios article? You are a child. The Fred guys has no support for the nomination. if he were to have even a marginal base of support he we be invited to speak on a national network. The guy has no support and he is a joke. You want the GOP to let every Tom, Dick, or Harry have a podium at their debates to nominate their candidate. Get real.

    This has nothing to do with his sexaul orientation, but rather his support.

    Now beyond that the GOP as a whole has nothing against the gay community. The over zealous rligious guys perhaps, but as a whole the GOP is for civil unions, which is a legal recognition of the partneship and provides all the benefits of marriage. However, marriage IS a religious ceremony. It is sacred in religious text, and homosexuality is immoral in these religious text. It is simple.

    Furthermore, the GOP is correct on all other issues. Do not try to argue, go do your research. Do not just look things up to satisy your current thinking as that is just stu[id, but look for some actual data.

    Good Luck everyone!

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      If marriage is a religious ceremony then the government shouldn’t be legislating it. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”

      also, it could be argued that marriage started as more of a economic and social institution rather than a religious one, it was used for making alliances and trading wealth, and moving up the social ladder.

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      Chris, making sweeping statements like “the GOP is correct on all other issues” seems a bit extreme. Yes, I will argue. That’s like saying that any group of people is always right, which is illogical. No one is always right. Everyone makes mistakes at some point, this includes Democrats as well as Republicans.

      I also take issue with the fact that you are calling Rachel a child. There’s no need to insult the writer just because you don’t agree with her. There are ways to respectfully disagree.

      And I have to agree with Emma here, the whole “gays can have civil unions but the word ‘marriage’ belongs to straight people” argument drives me up a wall. I want to get MARRIED someday, because I am a traditional gal, and because I have faith based reasons for wanting it, and yeah, I’m gay too. So by your logic I should not be allowed the word marriage because marriage belongs to religious people. Being gay and religious are not mutually exclusive.

      Also, it is rude to tell people not to argue with you, as if you can preempt the disagreements I am sure you know are coming.

      I have no problem with you disagreeing with me, but you are deliberately being rude, (calling rachel a child) confrontational, (implying that people who would argue with you are stupid), and illogical (see above explanations). There’s no reason for that.
      Your argument about Fred Karger might be valid, but because of the way you present it, no one will take it seriously.

      Good Luck!

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