After getting sued and paying out a massive settlement to avoid a trial over it’s coverage of the last presidential election, Fox News is inserting itself into the 2024 narrative right off the bat by hosting tonight’s first GOP primary debate — a forum that will guarantee the network plenty of eyeballs and plenty of ad dollars.
There have been lots of speculative think pieces published this week on how hard the network will or won’t work to reestablish itself in its coverage of the 2024 race post-Dominion suit and the firing of one of its top personalities, Tucker Carlson. The anchors selected to moderate the debate offer a hint: Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum both have lengthy careers in the network’s news division and were left largely unscathed by evidence that came out of the Dominion case. (Baier did have to answer for an email unearthed last fall that showed him advocating for Fox’s notorious 2020 Arizona decision to be reconsidered, but he has since said the email was taken out of context.)
After its $787.5 million slap on the wrist, it’s unclear how much time the network will spend on questioning tonight’s candidates about their views on the outcome of the 2020 election — and what it might do if the issue comes up unprompted through the candidates’ statements. The matter will be impossible to avoid altogether. With the front-runner playing hooky amid four indictments, two of which are related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, the Republican candidates may want to plant their flags on the issue — either as Trump defenders or on the side of the rule of law — during their first appearance in front of a national audience. Not doing so would be weird — though some might take that route too.
MacCallum said during an interview with the Washington Post published this week that she doesn’t want the debate to focus on the past. Per WaPo:
One issue that she doesn’t think warrants much discussion is the sanctity of the 2020 election, even as Trump continues to discuss it.
Trump’s decision to skip the debate — despite the pleas of many Fox hosts and executives — in favor of a taped interview with fired Fox News host Tucker Carlson might actually allow for a more forward-looking discussion, MacCallum noted.
“I think that people understand the facts of what happened,” she said. “What I don’t want is to spend the whole evening kind of rehashing that. I think people are looking forward, and I think they’re much more concerned with what’s happening in their own lives.”
Whether the Big Lie makes an appearance on the debate stage — in all of its shitshow pageantry — or not, we know exactly where false claims about a stolen 2020 election will surface this evening. In lieu of participating in the running-mate try-outs that are the debate, Trump has decided to sit down with the guy Fox fired just after settling the Dominion lawsuit: his good friend Tuck.
We’ll be watching and reveling in the spectacle right alongside you tonight. Be sure to follow along here.
The Best Of TPM Today
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A Must Read from Josh Kovensky: Prigozhin’s Jet Goes Down, And The Russian Gov’t Claims He Was On Board
A new episode of the Josh Marshall Podcast: Ep. 287: The Kids’ Table
Yesterday’s Most Read Story
Trump’s BS Ain’t Gonna Fly In Federal Court — David Kurtz