Updated Oct 6, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Televised GOP speaker forum collapses after internal uproar

Reps. Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

Plans to hold a televised forum featuring three Republican speaker candidates fell apart after a fierce and rapid backlash within the House GOP.

Why it matters: Some moderate Republican lawmakers voiced concerns the broadcast would further expose their conference's stark divisions.

What we're watching: Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) said in a post on the social media site X that he "will not be participating in the televised debate."

  • House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is also not participating, a source familiar told Axios.
  • Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) is "no longer participating," per a spokesperson. His team initially had declined to participate, and only agreed after they were told Jordan and Hern both planned to do it, a source familiar with the matter told Axios.
  • The forum was scheduled for Monday, before the GOP's planned closed-door candidate forum on Tuesday.

The details: Fox News host Bret Baier was slated to host an "exclusive joint interview" with Jordan, Scalise and Hern, the news outlet said in a press release.

  • The event was scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. ET and Baier was to “press the congressmen on who should be the next Speaker ... and discuss the issues facing Congress and the Republican party going forward," the release said.
  • The GOP conference will meet Tuesday for their internal candidate forum, followed by an election to determine their party's speaker nominee on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "This is a bad idea," said Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.), calling it a "lapse of judgment" by the candidates and saying the event was "not a decision that was made by the conference or with any consultation."

  • "Right now we've got a lot to work out that's very delicate, emotions and otherwise, and this is not going to help our conference work through some very difficult times," Duarte said, adding, "We know it's a debate, we don't need to play semantic games."
  • Another moderate House Republican, speaking on the condition of anonymity to offer a blunt assessment of the matter, told Axios: "It's the height of idiocy."
  • A third lawmaker said that while they were personally neutral, they "did hear from many today who think it's not wise" because it's "not unifying," and that members would rather the candidates "debate in private."

The bottom line: A GOP lawmaker told Axios before the event was canceled that it would not end up happening due to "scores" of members telling the candidates it's a "bad idea that will add to the chaos headlines."

Editor's note: This article has been updated to note that none of the candidates will be participating in the Fox News forum.

Go deeper