Jan 10, 2024 - Business

Fox anchors on what to expect at Trump's Iowa town hall

Fox News anchors Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier. Photo: Reese Strickland for Fox News

Fox News is betting that it won't fall into the same Trump trap as pretty much every other network that's attempted to interview the former president live.

Why it matters: Moderators Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier told Axios in an interview ahead of their live town hall with former President Trump that they're hoping to draw him into a substantive discussion around foreign policy.

  • Few journalists — if any — have been able to keep him in line.

Why it matters: In deciding to skip CNN's Wednesday evening debate — and all other debates this cycle — Trump hasn't had to answer many tough policy questions head-on while campaigning.

  • "If I have a goal, it's to make sure that we're looking forward and not back, because I think that's really what voters care about," MacCallum said.
  • "They want to know what's going to happen in terms of the commitment that the United States makes to these foreign wars — whether or not any future president believes that these are important to our national security."

Driving the news: The town hall, taking place at 9pm ET in Des Moines, Iowa, will be the first time Fox News has interviewed Trump live since April 2022, the New York Times reports.

  • "A lot has transpired since then," said Baier, who conducted that interview. In addition to foreign policy, topics that could come up include immigration and the economy, Baier said.

Yes, but: Moderating a town hall event with Trump — who is known to interject during lines of questioning he doesn't like or spew falsehoods on the podium — serves as both a challenge and an opportunity for Fox News to prove its commitment to hard-hitting journalism.

  • "The main thing with questioning is to try to ask questions that can be refined so that you get to the heart of the issue without getting off an exit ramp onto talking points. So that's what we're gonna try to do," Baier said.
  • Baier pushed back against the former president in June when he said he won the 2020 election.

The big picture: Fox News' town hall event, the third of its kind this week, represents a shift in primary debate conventions that's been largely influenced by Trump's unwillingness to participate in traditional debates.

  • "The town halls are different," Baier said. "It's not an interview. It's really an effort to get as many questions from Iowa voters as we can."
  • "I think our role is really to facilitate and to step in only when necessary," McCallum said, like "flushing something out or making sure that we're nailing down what the answer was, and if there's a follow up that's needed."

What to watch: Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis participated in similar Fox News town hall events in Iowa Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

  • They will both appear at a CNN debate — which isn't sanctioned by the Republican National Committee — at the same time as the Trump town hall on Wednesday night.

The intrigue: Asked about whether that presents a challenge for voters, MacCallum said, "I don't think that's incumbent upon us. I think that most viewers are pretty savvy about how they can kind of be part of two things."

  • "This was not our choice," Baier added, addressing the town hall timing.
  • "This was a stipulation from the Trump folks to do it at that hour."
Go deeper