Former President Donald Trump chose to forgo the first GOP debate and instead participate in an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson as a form of counterprogramming. The pre-taped interview was released on a social media platform called X, just five minutes before the start of the debate. In the interview, Trump explained his decision to skip the debate, citing his lead in the polls and his reluctance to be harassed by candidates who he believes shouldn’t be running for president. Trump’s decision to air the interview on the same night as the debate can be seen as a slight to Fox News, the debate’s host, and the rest of the GOP field. Trump has become disillusioned with Fox News and has publicly criticized the network in his social media posts.
During the interview, Trump discussed various topics, including the 2024 field and his criticism of Vice President Mike Pence for not overturning the election results on January 6, 2021. Trump also addressed the possibility of civil war, pointing to the passion and hatred among his supporters. The interview aired right before Trump’s expected surrender to a Georgia jail on charges related to his alleged efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia. Despite his legal issues, recent polls show that Trump’s lead among likely Republican primary voters is growing.
Trump’s decision to skip the debate and air his interview with Carlson instead reflects his confidence in his lead in the polls and his frustration with the GOP field. By turning to alternative platforms to reach his audience, Trump shows his contempt for Fox News and his desire to control his narrative. The interview touched on various contentious issues, such as the 2020 election and the possibility of civil war. As Trump faces legal troubles, his popularity among likely Republican primary voters remains strong, according to recent polls.