The first Republican presidential debate will be held Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET in Milwaukee, and millions of Americans are expected to tune in to Fox News or one of its cable or digital subsidiaries as eight candidates compete to dethrone former President Donald Trump.
Fox News host Bret Baier reportedly tried his best to convince Trump to participate in the debate, but Trump declined. Baier will moderate the event alongside fellow Fox News personality Martha MacCallum.
But Fox News isn’t the only sponsor of the debate. And while the channel is a household name, its other two names — video-sharing service Rumble and the activist organization Young America’s Foundation — are not.
Here you will find a guide to each of the sponsoring organizations.
Founded in 1996 by right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch and former Republican Roger Ailes, Fox News has grown to become the most-watched cable television news network and the most trusted news channel among Republicans. Fox has hosted many GOP debates in the past, including the most-watched Republican presidential debate that took place in 2016.
Fox News has also drawn criticism from academics and journalism professors, as research has found that its inaccurate coverage of topics such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to public misinformation.
Fox has generally boosted Trump throughout his political career, regularly hosting him for respectful interviews, ignoring his scandals, and attacking anyone they consider a threat to him. After Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, which Trump denied, Fox’s accurate coverage of the results cost the network many viewers, who turned to startup rival right-wing networks like Newsmax. Stars on the network panicked, including Baier and MacCallum, who argued in internal emails that Fox needed to deviate from normal statistical criteria for calling state results to minimize backlash from its viewers. Fox subsequently gained support for Trump’s evidence-free claims that his loss was caused by election fraud. In April, the network agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million for making false claims that Dominion’s machines were being manipulated in favor of Joe Biden.
Since the disappointing performance of Trump-backed Republican candidates in last year’s midterm elections, Fox has been seen as ambivalent towards Trump, who lavishly gives airtime and enthusiastic coverage to rivals like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. But lately things have reportedly turned sour for DeSantis, as Trump is far ahead of his opponents in the polls.
Trump rejected Fox’s pleas to join the debate, telling confidants he sees no benefit in drawing attention to his rivals who are far behind him in the polls.
Last Thursday, Trump claimed on his Truth Social network that the “Fox and Friends” show doesn’t “show all the polls [sic] where I beat Biden” and that they show unflattering photos of him. Trump has already taped an interview with former Fox host Tucker Carlson to be simulcast during Wednesday’s debate, though it’s not yet clear which platform it will appear on.
Launched in 2013, Rumble is essentially a right-wing version of YouTube. Conservative content creators like Dan Bongino post videos on the app, which has grown significantly since 2020. Many conservatives have moved from mainstream platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, which issued warnings about false claims about the presidential election, to sites like Rumble that have more lenient content moderation standards.
“Rumble’s mission to protect free speech is not just a slogan,” Chris Pavlovski, Rumble’s chairman and CEO, said in April, when it announced that the platform will live stream the debate. “Rumble saw record traffic and user engagement during the 2022 midterm elections, and we are poised to be the premier platform for all candidates in the 2024 election.”
According to an October 2022 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, “While 20% of American adults say they have heard of Rumble, only 2% regularly get news there.”
Among the many Trump surrogates present at the debate is his son Donald Trump Jr., who has more than 1 million followers on Rumble and signed a multimillion-dollar deal with the platform.
Young America Foundation
Young America’s Foundation, or YAF, was originally founded in 1960 by a group of young conservatives with the support of National Review editor and conservative figurehead William F. Buckley, Jr. in response to what they saw as a progressive tendency on college campuses. The group, then called Young Americans for Freedom, laid out the principles of the free market economy, limited government, state rights, nationalist and anti-communist foreign policy. (Its founding manifesto, the Sharon Declaration, was called a “pioneering document” by the conservative movement in 2015 by the New York Times.)
YAF launched programs to gain supporters, sponsored conservative speakers on campus, and trained conservative journalists. The current president is former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, 55, who unsuccessfully ran against Trump for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Progressive critics point to its entrenched rank and file and older leadership and have labeled the group an “astroturf” organization engaged in “nuisance lawsuits” against the left. In one such lawsuit, which the group recently dropped, a leftist podcast was accused of violating its trademark by using “Young Americans for Freedom” as the satirical name of a level of sponsorship that fans could pay for.
“YAF proved to be both inept and evil,” wrote Jeet Heer of Nation magazine. “The group had actually not kept its trademark on the Young Americans for Freedom name.”