The second GOP primary debate co-hosted by Fox News and Univision was held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on Wednesday. Seven candidates – Gov. Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy, Mike Pence, and Gov. Doug Burgum – took the stage, while 2024 frontrunner Donald Trump campaigned with autoworkers in Michigan.
Megyn called the debate a “hot mess” and “not a good night for the Republican Party, ” and one of the biggest reasons why was topic selection. The moderators editorialized their questions in a way that Megyn said did not work for a GOP primary debate. “The whole thing felt like it could have been put on by MSNBC not Fox News,” she noted.
On Thursday’s show, Megyn was joined by Michael Duncan, co-host of Ruthless, and Eliana Johnson, co-host of Ink-Stained Wretches, to discuss the framing of the questions and why it was not of value to the Republican voters watching.
The Frame Game
Unlike the first GOP primary debate that was solely a Fox News affair, the second debate was a partnership between Fox Business Network and Univision. As a result, Univision’s Ilia Calderón joined Fox News’ Dana Perino and FBN’s Stuart Varney as moderator. “What on earth was Fox thinking partnering with Univision,” Megyn asked. “This is a leftist news organization that’s basically propaganda.”
In Megyn’s view, that ideology was reflected in Calderón’s questions. “The issue selection and the way in and out of the questions showed her bias time and time and time again,” she said. Johnson noted that the inquiries did not serve GOP voters, but they are getting praised in certain parts of the media. “They just weren’t asking about, for the most part, things of interest to Republican primary voters,” she explained. “But The New York Times today ran a glowing profile of [Calderón] noting that Univision retained editorial control over all of her questions. Well, it was obvious, and it was a fail.”
Calderón was not the only moderator on stage who took a more liberal approach to her framing. While she asked questions about gun control, Florida’s Black history curriculum, violence against the LGBTQ+ community, and the role of U.S. citizens in the fentanyl crisis, Perino touted President Joe Biden’s leadership with Bidenomics and Varney dissected income inequality.
Duncan was surprised by what he heard. “It was bizarre,” he said. “It was almost like they had a conference call with Joe Biden’s comms department and tried to figure out a way to put all these candidates into knots on some general election issues… and force [them] to play defense.”
‘Keep the Audience in Mind’
Megyn, Duncan, and Johnson agreed that the line of questioning felt more appropriate for a general election debate than a GOP primary. “The ones that stood out to me as particularly inappropriate for Republican primary voters were… [about] dreamers… gun safety… [and] LGBT+ Americans,” Johnson said. “While all those might be okay for a general election debate, these things just aren’t top of mind for conservative voters.”
As she explained, the “two biggest issues in the country right now” are the economy and border security. “The biggest miss in this debate was not allowing the candidates to face off against each other and to showcase the divisions among the candidates on the issues of most interest to Republican voters,” Johnson said. “We want to see the candidates spar against each other… Instead, they were given left-wing talking points and put on defense.”
Ultimately, Johnson believes the moderators failed to remember who the debate was for. “Those were huge misses and ultimately did a disservice to the 75 percent of Republican primary voters who say they’re still trying to make up their minds as to who they want to cast a ballot for in the primary,” she concluded. “That’s who this show is for, so keep the audience in mind.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Duncan and Johnson by tuning in to episode 637 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.