Donald Trump is considering skipping the first Republican debate to instead sit for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, according to people familiar with the GOP frontrunner’s plans.
(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump is considering skipping the first Republican debate to instead sit for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, according to people familiar with the GOP frontrunner’s plans.
An interview with Carlson, who exited Fox News earlier this year, would be a snub to the network, which is hosting Wednesday’s debate. Trump has criticized the network in recent days for its coverage of his campaign. The people familiar requested anonymity to discuss Trump’s planning.
Trump’s campaign spokesperson said no plans have been finalized and he may still attend the debates — as Fox executives and the Republican National Committee have encouraged him to do. A person close to Carlson confirmed discussions between the host and former president about the possible counterprogramming event.
Trump has threatened for months to boycott the debate, arguing that appearing on stage with his lower-polling rivals would only give those challengers a chance to attack him. He leads his nearest challenger, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by 39 percentage points in a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
And while the former president meets the donor and polling thresholds to join the debate, he has refused to sign a pledge required by the RNC to support the party’s eventual nominee and not run as a third-party candidate.
Trump asked supporters Thursday night whether he should attend the forum in Milwaukee. “I am leading the runner up, whoever that may now be, by more than 50 Points,” Trump wrote in a post on his social network website Truth Social. “Reagan didn’t do it, and neither did others. People know my Record, one of the BEST EVER, why should I debate?”
Trump’s campaign has avoided events that give all Republican candidates equal billing for months, part of a deliberate strategy to deprive his rivals of the attention his presence brings.
Earlier: Trump Says He Won’t Sign Pledge to Back Nominee as Debate Nears
DeSantis criticized Trump over his possible absence this weekend at the Iowa State Fair.
“At the end of the day you don’t take your ball and go home. It’s not just about you. You’ve got to be willing to stand up and support the team,” said DeSantis.
“If someone’s not willing to do that, that just shows you,” he continued. “Their campaign’s more about them than the broader public and the American people.”
Trump’s campaign will have a presence at the debate. US Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, an influential Trump surrogate who has sparred with DeSantis, the governor of his state, will be in attendance.
The DeSantis campaign has been bracing for a fierce debate, expecting that the governor as the highest-polling candidate on stage will be the target of attacks with Trump absent.
Read more: DeSantis Braces for Brawl as Trump Mulls Skipping Debate
DeSantis brought on veteran debate coach Brett O’Donnell, who helped US Senator Mitt Romney, the late US Senator John McCain and former President George W. Bush, prepare for debates, according to sources familiar, who asked for anonymity to discuss internal strategy, and has been practicing at least once a week.
(Adds comment from person close to Carlson in third paragraph.)
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