The role of debate moderator carries prestige, but it also brings exacting demands and inherent risks: personal attacks by candidates, grievances about perceived biases and, for the two moderators of Wednesday’s Republican primary debate, a tempestuous cable news network’s reputation.
Enter Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, the Fox News Channel mainstays who drew that assignment and will pose questions to the eight G.O.P. presidential candidates squaring off for the first time, absent former President Donald J. Trump.
The party’s front-runner, Mr. Trump will bypass the debate in favor of an online interview with Tucker Carlson, who was fired from Fox News in April.
But that doesn’t mean the debate’s moderators will be under any less of a microscope.
Here’s a closer look at who they are:
He is the chief political anchor for Fox News and the host of “Special Report With Bret Baier” at 6 p.m. on weeknights. Mr. Baier, 53, joined the network in 1998, two years after the network debuted, according to his biography.
Mr. Baier, like Ms. MacCallum, is no stranger to the debate spotlight.
In 2016, he moderated three G.O.P. primary debates for Fox, alongside Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace, who have since left the network. He was present when Ms. Kelly grilled Mr. Trump about his treatment of women during a 2015 debate, an exchange that drew Mr. Trump’s ire and led him to boycott the network’s next debate nearly six months later.
During the 2012 presidential race, Mr. Baier moderated five Republican primary debates.
At a network dominated by conservative commentators like Sean Hannity and the departed Mr. Carlson and Bill O’Reilly, Mr. Baier has generally avoided controversy — but not entirely.
After Fox News called Arizona for Joseph R. Biden Jr. on election night in 2020, becoming the first major news network to do so and enraging Mr. Trump and his supporters, Mr. Baier suggested in an email to network executives the next morning that the outlet should reverse its projection.
“It’s hurting us,” he wrote in the email, which was obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Baier was also part of a witness list in the defamation lawsuit that Dominion Voting Systems brought against Fox News over the network’s role in spreading disinformation about the company’s voting equipment. Fox settled the case for $787.5 million before it went to trial.
She is the anchor and executive editor of “The Story With Martha MacCallum” at 3 p.m. on weekdays. Ms. MacCallum, 59, joined the network in 2004, according to her biography.
During the 2016 election, Ms. MacCallum moderated a Fox News forum for the bottom seven Republican presidential contenders who had not qualified for the party’s first debate in August 2015. She reprised that role in January 2016, just days before the Iowa caucuses.
She and Mr. Baier also moderated a series of town halls with individual Democratic candidates during the 2020 election, including one that featured Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Before joining Fox, she worked for NBC and CNBC.
When Fox projected Mr. Biden’s victory over Mr. Trump in Arizona, effectively indicating that Mr. Biden had clinched the presidency, Ms. MacCallum was similarly drawn into the maelstrom at the network.
During a Zoom meeting with network executives and Mr. Baier, she suggested it was not enough to call states based on numerical calculations — the standard by which networks have made such determinations for generations — but that viewers’ reactions should be considered.
“In a Trump environment,” Ms. MacCallum said, according to a review of the phone call by The Times, “the game is just very, very different.”