Conservative firebrand Tucker Carlson is set to host the first forum of Republican Presidential Candidates on Friday, though former President Trump will apparently not be among the participants.
At least 13 Republicans have so far joined the race for their party’s 2024 Presidential nomination.
Among them, former Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Sen. Tim Scott and former Gov. Nikki Haley both from South Carolina, former Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and business entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy are expected to take part in a roughly half-hour discussion with Carlson, a former Fox News prime time host.
A Trump campaign spokesperson told The Hill that the former President would not be participating, pointing to a “scheduling conflict” amid Trump’s planned travel to Iowa and his home state of Florida where he is set to host a national young voter conference this weekend.
The forum is happening less than a month before the Republican National Committee (RNC) hosts the first official GOP primary debate—which Trump has also suggested he might skip.
The RNC has stipulated that any candidates who wish to participate must first agree to pledge to support the Republican Presidential nominee, no matter who voters ultimately choose.
Trump has said his support would “depend on who the nominee was.”
He’s not the only candidate who’s balking. Pence, Desantis, Hutchinson, Ramaswamy, former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas have all either given unclear responses or are a flat-out “no” to the RNC pledge.
According to Real Clear Politics’ polling average, Trump currently leads the GOP nomination with an average 53% of support. That’s a 23-point lead over number two contender DeSantis.
Carlson and Fox News parted ways in April, less than a week after the network agreed to pay $787.5 million to settle a defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems, in which Carlson’s show figured prominently for its role in spreading disinformation about the 2020 Presidential election’s results.
Despite his departure, Carlson remains under contract with Fox News, though he has launched a video series on Twitter since leaving the network.
Bob Vander Plaats, President and CEO of the Family Leader, is putting on the forum in cooperation with Blaze Media.
Blaze TV said Friday’s forum can be seen on its YouTube channel, which currently maintains less than 2 million subscribers.