Former President Donald J. Trump’s plan to have prominent surrogates make his case in Milwaukee without attending the debate himself may already be hitting a snag as he clashes with Fox News.
Mr. Trump’s campaign had previously arranged for prominent supporters to visit the “spin room,” where candidates and their allies interact with members of the media after the debate.
But Fox News, which is hosting the matchup, will grant access to the spin room only to aides of candidates who are participating, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times. Aides of nonparticipating candidates will have access only if they are invited as guests of media organizations.
“In addition to the (5) Spin Room credentials referenced in a previous email, we’ll also issue (1) Media Row credential to any participating candidate/campaigns,” the memo says. “Any non-participating candidate/campaign is welcome in the Spin Room or Media Row as a guest of one of the media organizations with positions in those locations, using one of their credentials.”
The memo, which was first reported by Axios, does not mention Mr. Trump, and the restrictions apply to all candidates who aren’t participating — a category that also includes those who didn’t meet the donor and polling thresholds to qualify. In practice, though, it will affect Mr. Trump more significantly than anyone else, since he is the front-runner in the Republican primary and is actively trying to snub the debate while still getting its benefits.
Mr. Trump’s decision to skip the first Republican National Committee-sanctioned debate of the 2024 race was a slap in the face to both the party and Fox News. Mr. Trump has frequently complained about Fox News’s coverage of him. He has recorded an interview with Tucker Carlson, who was fired from the network this year, that will post on X, formerly known as Twitter, during the debate.
At least three senior members of Mr. Trump’s campaign — Chris LaCivita, Jason Miller and Steven Cheung — plan to attend the debate in person, The Times has reported.
Among the prominent Trump backers planning to attend Wednesday’s debate are Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor in Arizona who lost last year and has loudly echoed Mr. Trump’s election lies; Mr. Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr.; and Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Byron Donalds of Florida.
“Kari Lake looks forward to attending the debate, and if Fox thinks otherwise, they’re welcome to call her,” a senior adviser to Ms. Lake, Caroline Wren, told NBC News on Monday.
The Fox News memo does not describe any restrictions on audience members, however, only restricting access to the spin room where reporters will be doing the bulk of their post-debate interviews.