Donald Trump chose to skip the first Republican presidential debate and instead speak with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, in an interview packed with conspiratorial themes about a civil war in the US, Jeffrey Epstein, a plot by Senate Republicans against Mr Trump, and even a potential assassination attempt, according to a preview of the conversation shared online.
“There’s a level of passion that I’ve never seen. There’s a level of hatred that I’ve never seen,” Mr Trump tells Carlson in the special, which was taped at the former president’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “And that’s probably a bad combination.”
In the preview, Mr Trump brags, “We’ll get bigger ratings using this crazy forum that you’re using than probably the debate.”
The teaser also suggests Mr Trump will share his thoughts on former ally and vice president Mike Pence, conspiracies surrounding the suicide of sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, and an alleged scheme in which Mr Trump claims Senator Mitch McConnell was encouraging Republicans to impeach him.
Mr Trump has claimed his decision to skip the 2024 debate is in part about publicity, and not giving his rivals, who trail far behind him in national polls, unearned exposure.
He has also previously sparred with Fox News anchor Bret Baier, who directly confronted the former president and told him he was lying about winning the 2020 election in a widely seen June interview.
“You lost the 2020 election,” Baier told Mr Trump in the conversation.
“There were recounts in all of the swing states,” he continued as Mr Trump protested. “There was not significant widespread fraud... There were lawsuits, more than 50 of them, by your lawyers, some in front of judges you appointed, that came out with no evidence.”
The former president has complained that Fox News is now a “hostile” network.
Trump absence aside, eight Republican candidates – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis; entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; former Vice President Mike Pence; former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley; former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; South Carolina Senator Tim Scott; former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum – will take the stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at 9pm ET, with the debate broadcast live on Fox News.
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