The CBC’s defense of their partnership with conservative propaganda outlet Fox News Channel is becoming increasingly absurd:

“We’re moving forward no matter what. We’re definitely having a debate in Detroit in September,” said CBC Chairwoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who serves on the institute’s board and represents Detroit in Congress. “We may change the format. We might have more than just the presidential candidates,” she said.

Debates between minor candidates are not rare. Biden, Kucinich and Gravel discussed the Iraq war at a June 6 debate at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. But it is unusual for such events to enjoy the backing of a national cable news channel.

Under such circumstances, one might expect Fox News to be making for the studio exit. But a representative said the network is “moving forward with the debate as scheduled on Sept. 23.”

So the lack of attendance at the debate is going to change the format of the debate so drastically that not just the tier 3 presidential candidates are going to be invited, but black people are still supposed to believe that a network that has gone out of its way to portray African Americans in a negative light is going to be one worth paying attention to? From what Congresswoman Kilpatrick is saying, it might not even be a “presidential debate” anymore.

Naturally, Fox is sticking to the deal. With Biden and Gravel attending, the opportunities to make Democrats look like lunatics will be endless.

Bennie Thompson (D-LA) still hasn’t quite given up on convincing the front runners to attend.

Fox has been seeking to improve its relations with African-American groups, especially after an embarrassing incident last month when it mistook Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) for indicted Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), another black lawmaker. Pulling out of the black caucus debate would likely jeopardize the network’s outreach efforts.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), head of the CBC Institute, said he still held out hope that he could convince the front-runners to attend. He preferred not to dwell on the idea of a lonely stage with Biden, Kucinich and Gravel lobbing bombs at their absentee rivals.

“We’re still working to get the other people to reconsider,” Thompson said. “Their decision to make Fox News the issue is not a good idea. Whether you agree or disagree with [Fox], they have a viewership.”

What an absurd argument. Every cable news station has a “viewership”.

As frustrated as I may be with the Politico sometimes, they manage to mention something few people discussing the CBC debate have–that there is another debate scheduled that will air on CNN, rather than FOX.

Thompson said the CBC Institute would make debate viewers aware of the no-shows.

“There will be a direct effort to put in the minds of [viewers] that every candidate had more than enough time to put this on their schedule,” he said.

But the major candidates are unlikely to face criticism from the black community for taking a pass on this one. Most have accepted an invitation to appear at another black caucus debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in January. That one is televised by CNN.

That fact preempts the kind of laughable criticism from FOX and their allies that Democratic candidates refusing to attend the debate on a racist network are simply unconcerned with issues facing African Americans. The problem, quite clearly, is the FOX News Channel.

The influence of African American voters in the Democratic primary has probably never been greater. Regardless of how one feels about Obama as a candidate, his presence alone makes competition for black votes more fierce, and forces the other major candidates to respect our concerns.

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