One of television’s longest-running soap operas is about to start a new chapter.
Donald J. Trump has not appeared for a live interview on Fox News since April 2022, amid nearly two years of tension between the former president and the channel on which he once broadcast in order to strengthen his position above the American right. Was trusted for.
Over that period, all of Mr Trump’s Fox News interviews were pretaped, a notable precaution for the network that paid $787.5 million to settle a defamation lawsuit prompted by the former president’s false claims about the 2020 election. did. That will change on Wednesday, when Mr. Trump will appear live on the network for a town hall in Des Moines ahead of the Iowa caucuses.
The relationship between Mr. Trump and the Rupert Murdoch-owned network has featured more drama than a season of “Real Housewives.” But Wednesday’s program is not only a turning point and potential ratings winner for Fox News: It’s also the former president’s first live interview on any major news network since he went to CNN last May, a program that drew volumes. He was harshly criticized for his actions and the ferocity of his unfiltered false claims.
Mr. Trump has not been silenced at all. He declined invitations from several networks to participate in the live Republican primary debate. And he has agreed to several pretaped interviews, including an appearance on NBC in September prompted complaints From viewers who criticized the network for giving him the platform.
However, his relationship with Fox News is particularly complicated. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that parts of the network seemed to be moving forward.
In 2022, Fox News ignored Mr. Trump’s rallies while offering complimentary coverage to his opponent, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. After Mr Trump announced he would run for president again in November 2022, the network kept him off their broadcasts for five full months. When Mr. Trump returned for a taped interview with Sean Hannity last March, he received a good reception from the other Fox hosts; a network contributor called His appearance was “absolutely terrifying”.
The slight angered Mr Trump, who had expressed displeasure to Fox over its early telecast of Arizona for Joseph R Biden Jr on election night in 2020. Over the past year, the former president has hurled vulgar insults and slurs at Mr Murdoch. Fox has been described as “fake news” and “hostile” in posts on his favorite social media platform, Truth Social. He has also complained to colleagues that the network made a mistake in settling a defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems, saying it offered ammunition to other potential plaintiffs.
In an interview, Fox News chief political anchor Brett Baer, who is hosting the Wednesday show with anchor Martha MacCallum, didn’t shy away from acknowledging the instability of the relationship.
“We are a true social post away from some different emotions,” he said.
Despite the caution, both sides found reasons to agree at Wednesday’s town hall.
Given his polling data, many conservatives are charmed by Mr. Trump, and keeping the presumptive Republican nominee away would undermine Fox News’ credibility among core audiences. While Mr. Trump has told confidants that he believes Fox News has lost some influence over Republican voters, it still remains highest rated Cable network and home to influential conservatives like Mr. Hannity and Jesse Waters.
Moreover, the town hall gives Mr. Trump a chance to take jabs at both his presidential rivals and one of his media stalwarts: CNN.
CNN had previously announced that it would sponsor a Republican debate in Iowa on the same night, in the same city, at the same time (9 p.m. Eastern). Mr. DeSantis and Nikki Haley, Mr. Trump’s closest rivals in state elections, would have been at that debate, but Mr. Trump boycotted. Fox’s town hall allows him to deflect attention and potentially score a TV ratings win over CNN – which would also please Fox News.
Given the difficult and difficult nature of the presidential campaign, Wednesday’s broadcast is unlikely to represent a lasting peace. A person with direct knowledge of talks between the Trump camp and Fox News, speaking on condition of anonymity, said relations remain cordial.
The television on Mr. Trump’s plane once broadcast Fox News continuously, but that is no longer the case, the person said. The former president often requests to watch Mr. Hannity’s program, but sometimes prefers Newsmax, especially its host Greg Kelly, a longtime acquaintance in New York political circles. Mr. Trump is still a fan of Mr. Hannity and Mr. Waters and Maria Bartiromo — but he has taken umbrage with “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy, whom he recently described As in “He’s not as good as he should be.”
Mr. Baer said he had pitched the town hall idea to Mr. Trump on the phone in recent weeks and met with him in person at least once at his Florida mansion, Mar-a-Lago.
“It’s not easy,” he said of the effort required to engage Mr. Trump in an interview. He said he had encouraged the former president to answer “tough but fair” questions in a live setting.
“It’s getting to the playoffs,” Mr. Byrd said. “This is a time when voters need to see them live in person, when it happens.”
So what if Mr. Trump repeats his baseless claim on live TV that the 2020 election was rigged?
“We are prepared to deal with this,” Mr Byer said, saying He disputed Mr. Trump’s claim when the topic came up in his pretaped interview last June. “But if he’s spending all his town hall time dealing with 2020, and not talking about what he wants to do as president, then he has other issues.” (At that time, Mr. Trump wasn’t thrilled Regarding Mr. Baier’s real-time fact-checking, called it “bad”.)
For Mr. Baer, the next person on his list for a live, unfiltered interview is President Biden. “Since South Carolina, when candidate Joe Biden won the primary, we have been getting a request every two weeks,” he said. “We would love to do a town hall with the president. We’d do it in a heartbeat.
jonathan swann Contributed to the reporting.