Trump’s Absence: A Subdued Focus in Fox’s Debate with a 10-Minute Segment on Indictment

by Sophia Chen
Republican debate

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In Fox News Channel’s recent two-hour Republican presidential debate, the first half proceeded with scant reference to former President Donald Trump, until a brief but significant discussion led by moderator Bret Baier regarding Trump’s four criminal indictments – referred to as “the elephant not in the room.”

The former president, although maintaining a strong lead in the 2024 GOP nomination polls, was barely mentioned by his eight competitors on the Milwaukee stage that Wednesday. The reluctance to broach the topic was palpable, but when it did surface for ten minutes, it provided some of the night’s most stirring exchanges.

Upon questioning who would support Trump as the GOP nominee even if convicted of a crime, six hands were raised, with the exceptions being former Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas.

Christie was met with disapproval from the audience for stating that Trump’s conduct should not be considered standard. Despite the boos, he maintained his stance, asserting that it didn’t alter the reality.

Bret Baier and his Fox colleague Martha MacCallum thrice accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of evading a question concerning the propriety of then-Vice President Mike Pence’s resistance to Trump’s request not to certify Joe Biden’s win. DeSantis’s reply emphasized the future over the past, a sentiment initially shared by Pence, before affirming, “Mike did his duty. I’ve got no beef with him.”

Baier reminded DeSantis of his significant lag behind Trump in various polls, making it a relevant issue in the GOP primaries. After briefly addressing the subject, MacCallum aimed to shift the discussion but was interrupted by Pence, who wished to comment on the issue.

The sensitivity of this topic to both the candidates and Fox was evident, particularly through the audience’s reaction towards Christie. A recent poll by The New York Times and Siena College revealed that 80% of Fox News’s primary audience believed the GOP should support Trump in his legal troubles, including an imminent surrender in Georgia.

MacCallum had previously hinted at how Fox would approach this issue, emphasizing its relative importance amidst a multitude of other matters.

The debate’s moderation occasionally lost control, typified by an incident after MacCallum sought candidates’ opinions on human-caused climate change, following the deadly Hawaiian wildfires. DeSantis’s rebuke and subsequent takeover of the question left the moderators unable to achieve the desired response.

Notable follow-up questions were raised, including MacCallum challenging South Carolina Senator Tim Scott’s criticism of government spending under Biden, by referring to his approval of vast expenditure during Trump’s presidency.

A more light-hearted moment occurred when Christie expressed disbelief at being asked about government investigations into UFOs.

An official estimation of the debate’s viewership is anticipated by Thursday afternoon.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Republican debate

What was the main subject of the recent Fox News Channel’s Republican presidential debate?

The main subject of the debate was the current state and future of the Republican Party, with various policy topics discussed. However, a notable segment of the debate centered on former President Donald Trump’s absence and his criminal indictments, leading to intense discussions among the candidates.

Who were the exceptions in showing support for Trump as the GOP nominee if he were convicted of a crime?

Former Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas were the exceptions who indicated that they would not support Trump if he were convicted.

How did the audience react to Chris Christie’s statement about Trump’s conduct?

The audience booed Chris Christie when he stated that Trump’s conduct should not be normalized, though he stood by his statement, saying, “Booing is allowed, but it doesn’t change the truth.”

What was Governor Ron DeSantis’s response when asked about then-Vice President Mike Pence’s actions during the certification of Joe Biden’s victory?

Gov. Ron DeSantis avoided directly answering the question, expressing a desire to discuss the future instead of the past. He later affirmed that Pence did his duty, and he had no issues with him.

Did the moderators manage to maintain control of the debate?

The moderators struggled at times to keep control of the proceedings, with candidates hijacking questions and debates becoming chaotic at certain points.

Was the subject of climate change discussed during the debate?

Yes, the subject of climate change was brought up in the context of the deadly Hawaiian wildfires. However, the question was met with resistance, and the moderators were unable to get the candidates to fulfill the request for their stance on human-caused climate change.

When is the estimate of the debate’s viewership expected?

An official estimation of the debate’s viewership is anticipated to be released by Thursday afternoon.

More about Republican debate

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Lucy_G August 24, 2023 - 11:38 pm

Who’s even watching these debates anymore Seems like nothing new or substantial comes out of them anymore.

JohnDoe42 August 25, 2023 - 1:52 am

This debate sounds like it was a real mess. How can we expect these people to lead the country?

MelissaK August 25, 2023 - 5:10 am

Climate change question hijacked?! Shows you where the GOP’s priorities are – or arent.

Timothy James August 25, 2023 - 6:55 am

What’s the point in discussing UFOs in a serious political debate? come on, man.

Brian's World August 25, 2023 - 8:44 am

So six candidates still support Trump even if he’s convicted? That tells me everything I need to know about the GOP nowadays.

Sarah_1990 August 25, 2023 - 9:23 am

i never understand why these debates always end up being about Trump? Its 2024 for goodness sake, let’s move on.


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