The fourth Republican presidential primary debate of this cycle will be hosted by NewsNation, the “Megyn Kelly Show” on SiriusXM radio and the Washington Free Beacon newspaper, the Republican National Committee announced Thursday — representing a shift away from the establishment media outlets that hosted the first three debates.
NewsNation anchor Elizabeth Vargas, talk show host Megyn Kelly and Washington Free Beacon editor in chief Eliana Johnson will moderate the Dec. 6 debate in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the RNC said.
In a statement, Johnson touted the move to lesser-known outlets as a positive for Republicans, saying they were excited “to offer the candidates a debate platform outside of the mainstream media echo chamber and to give Republican primary voters a debate where conservative ideas and values will be the terrain and not the target.”
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Viewership of NewsNation, a subscription television network owned by the Nexstar Media Group, lags far behind better-known cable news channels Fox News, MSNBC and CNN. Last year, NewsNation averaged about 63,000 viewers per night, ranking it 107th among national networks. It has since grown considerably, and last week was ranked 59th among national networks, according to Nielsen Media Research. The network bills its news coverage as unbiased but has been accused by some of having a conservative bent.
“NewsNation’s mission is to provide fair and unbiased news coverage, and that’s the way we will approach this important debate,” Michael Corn, president of news at the network, said in a statement. “We take this responsibility very seriously and are proud to help inform and educate voters and to contribute to the democratic process.”
The first GOP debate of this cycle was hosted by Fox News, while the second was hosted by Fox Business and Univision. The third debate Wednesday night was hosted by NBC News, the Salem Radio Network and the Republican Jewish Coalition.
The fourth debate will also be streamed on the online video platform Rumble, as the previous three have been.
During Wednesday’s debate, candidate Vivek Ramaswamy targeted the moderators — NBC News anchors Lester Holt and Kristen Welker, and radio host Hugh Hewitt — and appeared to suggest that it was disappointing that the Republican Party would work with NBC News, which is not a conservative network.
“Think about who’s moderating this debate,” Ramaswamy said, suggesting some conversative media personalities as alternatives. “This should be Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan and Elon Musk — we’d have 10 times the viewership asking questions that GOP primary voters actually care about and bringing more people into our party.”
The fourth GOP debate will not be the first time Kelly has moderated a presidential debate. In 2015, when she was an anchor at Fox News, Kelly was a moderator at the first primary debate of that cycle and had a notable exchange with then-candidate Donald Trump.
“You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals.’ Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?” Kelly asked Trump then.
Trump took the question as a personal attack and would proceed to deride Kelly in his response as well as in interviews after that debate.
“She gets out, and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions,” Trump said in a CNN interview after the debate. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. In my opinion, she was off base.”
In a statement Thursday, Kelly said she was looking forward to the next GOP debate.
“It will be the margarita of debates — spicy, fun and somewhat intoxicating,” Kelly said.
There will be even stricter polling requirements for candidates to meet to qualify for the fourth GOP debate. Candidates must have at least 80,000 unique donors, with at least 200 unique donors per state or territory in at least 20 states or territories, as well as notch at least 6 percent in two approved polls.
Mariana Alfaro and Paul Farhi contributed to this report.