Tucker Carlson Could Help Donald Trump Counterprogram Fox News’ GOP Debate

With a durable double-digit lead in the polls, Donald Trump continues to float the idea that he might boycott the first Republican presidential debate, scheduled to air next month on Fox News. “I haven’t really made up my mind,” Trump told Fox on July 16. “When you have a big lead, you don’t do it.” 

The question, of course, is how a ratings-obsessed Trump would counterprogram a prime-time Fox debate that is sure to draw a significant cable news audience and feature such 2024 challengers as Ron DeSantis. One idea Trump is mulling is to sit for an interview with Tucker Carlson on his Twitter show at the same time as the debate, two sources briefed on the discussions said. According to one source, Trump recently reached out to Carlson and asked if Carlson would do the interview, but no decisions have been made.

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment. Carlson declined to comment.

A Trump-Tucker Twitter show—say that three times fast!—could benefit both Trump and Carlson. For Trump, who is staring down a probable second federal indictment—courtesy of special counsel Jack Smith’s January 6 probe—Carlson would likely be a much friendlier interviewer than Fox’s chosen debate moderators, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. Last month Trump and Baier tangled over the host’s tough questions about Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents. Afterward, Trump fumed to Newsmax about Baier’s confrontational tone: “I thought it was okay, but there was nothing friendly about it. You know, it was nasty.”

For Carlson, landing a Trump interview on the night of a Fox debate would demonstrate his growing conservative media power as he reportedly plans to launch his own streaming-based company. According to the source, investors have already told the ex-Fox anchor that they would contribute $100 million to his venture. Carlson and his business partner, Daily Caller cofounder Neil Patel, are currently reviewing trademarks to find an available name for the company, the source said. Carlson has joked to friends that he should name the company “Go Fuck Yourself Media.”

A potential Trump-Carlson show would also be a test for Fox News. Last month the network sent Carlson a cease and desist letter warning that his Twitter show was a violation of his Fox contract. But according to the source close to Carlson, Fox’s lawyers have had no further communication with Carlson. “Fox is still paying him! They thought they could control him by keeping him under contract,” a Carlson ally said.

Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.

By effectively ignoring Fox’s demand to sit on the sidelines until his contract expires at the end of 2024, Carlson is once again flexing the independence that rankled the Murdochs. According to a source, Rupert Murdoch recently told a friend that he fired Carlson because “Tucker got too big for his boots!”

A Murdoch spokesperson declined to comment.

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