Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday dined with top Fox executives at his Bedminster golf club, during which Fox News president Jay Wallace and the network’s chief executive, Suzanne Scott, encouraged him to participate in the first presidential debate the network is hosting later this month, two sources with knowledge told CNN.
Trump, who earlier in the evening had been indicted for a third time, did not commit to participating in the debate, which will take place in Milwaukee.
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The New York Times first reported on the dinner.
Trump has privately and publicly floated skipping either one or both of the first two Republican presidential primary debates, and pointed to his commanding lead in the polls as one reason he is hesitant to share the stage with his GOP challengers.
“Why would we debate? That would be stupid to go out there with that kind of lead,” one Trump adviser previously told CNN. However, not all of Trump’s allies feel this way. Some worry that an absent Trump would give an opportunity for a lower tier candidate to have a breakout moment.
Trump’s dinner comes after RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and David Bossie, who is in charge of the debate committee, visited Trump at Bedminster in recent weeks to encourage him to participate, according to a Trump adviser. Trump was also noncommittal on his plans during this meeting.
Over the last year, Trump has trashed Fox News and Rupert Murdoch, the Fox Corporation chairman and controlling shareholder of the company, for not being sufficiently supportive of him.
Murdoch, who privately holds disdain for Trump, attempted early on in the 2024 campaign to shine a bright light on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis while casting the former president on the sidelines. The hope appeared to be to seduce the Fox News audience into falling for another Republican candidate.
But the DeSantis campaign has struggled since it officially got off the ground this year. Last month, Murdoch debuted a new Fox News lineup comprised of pro-Trump propagandists, a move that seemed to acknowledge Trump’s likely selection as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.
Trump has also sharply criticized the way in which Murdoch has approached his legal problems, blasting the right-wing media mogul for not doubling down on his lies while in court.
Trump tried to call into Fox News after his supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, but the network refused to put him on air, according to court filings from Dominion Voting Systems in its defamation case against the company.
Still, Fox has amplified Trump’s lies about the validity of the 2020 election, even though Murdoch has said he did not believe Trump’s false statements, according to damning private messages revealed in the Dominion case. Murdoch floated the idea of having his influential hosts appear together in prime time to declare Joe Biden as the rightful winner of the election. Such an act, Murdoch said, “Would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election stolen.”