Fox News announced Wednesday it will air town halls featuring Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley next week after agreeing to host an event with Donald Trump as counterprogramming to CNN’s Iowa debate.
Both forums will take place in Des Moines, Iowa, and center on women’s issues. Haley’s town hall will take place on Jan. 8, followed by DeSantis’ on Jan. 9.
Both events will air at 6 p.m. ET, during the time slot usually held by co-moderator Bret Baier’s “Special Report” program.
Baier, the network’s chief political anchor, and “The Story” host Martha MacCallum will still hold a town hall with Trump in Des Moines beginning at 9 p.m. ET Jan. 10.
At the same hour, DeSantis and Haley are scheduled to face off in the CNN debate at nearby Drake University.
Fox News announced the two additional town halls after critics slammed the network for giving Trump an excuse to duck a debate with his two nearest rivals in both national and state primary polls.
“Trump is a massive coward for running to Fox News for cover during the next GOP debate,” said one Twitter user. “Fox News is joke for providing that cover. The last ‘Town Hall’ Trump did with Fox featured no questions, so wasn’t a Town Hall. Trump can no longer answer unscripted questions.”
In response, Baier said on X Tuesday evening that Trump “will not have the questions in advance or any knowledge of the questions from me, Martha or from citizens in the crowd — who will be a mix of Iowa voters.”
Baier added that “I approached the Trump campaign about doing a town hall in Iowa. They had turned down the debate (and all debates) and wanted to do it then.”
The response was not enough to pacify some critics, with Spectator USA contributing editor Stephen L. Miller asking Baier in response: “You agreed to actual debate counter-programming with a candidate who makes demands of you and your network but refuses to debate?”
The town halls will be held in the final days before the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses.
New Hampshire is slated to hold its primary contest next on Jan. 23.
Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, the Republican Party has been forced to reckon with the issue of abortion, as polls and a series of election results indicate the public is skeptical of restrictions of the procedure.
Trump is still the runaway frontrunner, with a commanding lead in every reliable national and early state poll.
Fox News previewed Tuesday that the town hall with Trump “will focus on the leading issues facing voters ahead of the Iowa Caucus.”