Media mogul Donald Trump will moderate a Republican presidential debate sponsored by the conservative website Newsmax in Des Moines, Iowa on Dec. 27, Newsmax confirmed today.
“We approached Donald Trump,” Newsmax.com executive director Steve Coz told The Fix. “He is a well-known and vocal conservative, and we thought it was a great partnership.” Trump adviser Michael Cohen confirmed his participation.
The debate will air on Ion Television, a network of 60 stations that reaches nearly 99 million households.
The news was first reported by the New York Times.
There is no word yet on which candidates — if any — have agreed to participate; Coz said Newsmax has received “positive responses” from multiple candidates already but will not release the full list until next week. It’s also not clear whether having Trump as the debate’s moderator — virtually ensuring a circus-like atmosphere — will keep some of the top-tier candidates away.
The “Apprentice” host flirted with a presidential bid earlier this year, during which time he repeatedly raised the issue of President Obama’s country of birth. Newsmax trumpeted that story; Trump even gave the website his own birth certificate as an “exclusive.”
He ultimately opted against a bid, but he’s gone on to meet with most of the Republicans presidential candidates in recent months. (One notable exception: former Utah governor Jon Huntsman with whom Trump engaged in a minor Twitter war. Huntsman has already publicly announced that he will not “Debate with The Donald.”)
While his presidential campaign seemed more like a publicity stunt than a genuine exploration of the possibility of running, Trump’s brief success in polls — he rose as high as second place earlier this year — suggested that Republican primary voters were looking for someone combative.