Fox News will host the first official debate of the 2024 Republican presidential primary in Milwaukee in August, the Republican National Committee’s chair announced Wednesday.
“We are going to host the very first debate with Fox News. It will be a Fox News Republican primary debate,” Ronna McDaniel said on the network’s flagship morning program, “Fox and Friends,” adding that all participants will be asked to agree to a party loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee.
Donald Trump, the former president and current polling front-runner for the nomination in 2024, has refused to say whether he would support a nominee other than himself. In a February radio appearance, he said his support “would have to depend on who the nominee was.”
McDaniel explained the reason for the pledge.
“Let me ask you this, as RNC chair, and we’re hosting RNC debates with Fox, if I said I wouldn’t support the nominee of our party I’d be kicked out,” she said. “So why would we host a debate stage without every candidate saying I’m going to support whoever the voters choose, and the voters want that.”
“It’s about beating Joe Biden,” she added.
McDaniel did not say how the party would determine who qualifies for the debate stage. In 2020, the Democratic National Committee required candidates to report a minimum number of small donors or meet a certain polling level.
“We’ll put that criteria out soon,” McDaniel said — but she did not expect to need more than one debate to accommodate a large field, as the party did initially in 2016 and Democrats did in 2020.
“Right now I don’t see there being two stages but I could be wrong on that. The field’s forming later than usual,” she explained.
Both the Republican convention and first debate will be in Milwaukee, signaling Wisconsin’s significance in the party’s path back to the White House. On Tuesday, Democrats announced their national convention would be in Chicago.
Hosting a debate can be a boon for a television network. In 2015, the first primary debate of the 2016 campaign, hosted by Fox News, drew an audience of 24 million, the largest for a non-sports event at that point in cable history. Trump played a starring role.
His relationship with Fox soured in the wake of his 2020 defeat, but there are signs that the two sides are trying to set a new tone. Trump has given two major interviews to the network recently.
On Tuesday, Tucker Carlson, the network’s prominent prime time host, interviewed Trump and gushed that the former president’s message was “moderate, sensible and wise.”
Carlson’s far more caustic private opinions of Trump spilled into public view recently amid the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems, which is accusing the network of broadcasting false information about the company.
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait,” Carlson wrote in a Jan. 4, 2021 text message. “I hate him passionately.”
The network has said that the communications of its anchors have been taken out of context.
The trial is set to begin Monday.
In addition to Trump, Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and a former U.N. ambassador; Asa Hutchinson, a former governor of Arkansas; Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur and author; and Perry Johnson, a businessman and failed candidate for governor of Michigan, have entered the Republican primary race. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina announced an exploratory committee Wednesday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is widely expected to announce a run in the coming months, as is Mike Pence, the former vice president.
McDaniel announced two other debate partners: Young America’s Foundation, which is led by Scott Walker, the former Wisconsin governor, and Rumble, a right-wing online streaming service.
“We’re getting away from Big Tech,” she said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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