Will former President Trump ever concede he lost the 2020 election? Should white nationalists be allowed to serve in the U.S. military? Will X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, survive without major companies advertising on it?
Those were the topics and burning questions that sparked some of the most notable shouting matches, spirited debates and memorable moments between newsmakers and journalists in 2023.
Here are five that stood out:
Elon Musk rebukes boycotting advertisers
Musk, the eccentric billionaire and owner of X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, set off multiple firestorms with his embrace of antisemitic conspiracy theories and defiant response to backlash about harmful content on the site.
The drama surrounding X came to a head this fall, when the company faced a mass exodus of advertisers from the platform. Musk was asked about during an appearance at The New York Times DealBook Summit last month.
“If someone is going to try and blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go f‑‑‑ yourself,” he said. “Go f‑‑‑ yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is.”
Journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, seemingly baffled by Musk’s obscene response, followed up by asking him, “How do you think, then, about the economics of X … if you believe this is the one part of the company that you will be beholden to companies that have this kind of view?”
“What this advertising boycott is going to do, it’s going to kill the company,” Musk responded. “And the whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company, which we will document in great detail.”
Tuberville and CNN’s Collins spar about white nationalism
One of the most contentious prime-time interviews on cable news this year came in July, when Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) appeared on CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins’s newly launched show.
Collins pressed the Republican about comments he had previously made describing people who promote white supremacy as “Americans,” when asked if he supported the idea of white nationalists serving in the U.S. military.
“If people think that a white nationalist is a racist, I agree with that,” he told Collins.
CNN’s leading anchor interrupted him, asking him to acknowledge that white nationalism is inherently racist and clarifying that a white nationalist is “someone who believes that the white race is superior to other races.”
“Well, that’s some people’s opinion,” Tuberville responded.
“That’s not an opinion,” Collins shot back.
“My opinion of a white nationalist, if somebody wants to call them a white nationalist, to me, is an American,” Tuberville said. “It’s an American. Now, if that white nationalist is a racist, I’m totally against anything that they want to do, because I am 110 percent against racism.”
The senator’s comments sparked uproar on Capitol Hill and forced Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to issue a rebuke of white nationalism, saying there it is “unacceptable in the military.”
Baier tells Trump he lost in 2020
When Trump decided to sit with Fox News anchor Bret Baier for a wide-ranging interview in June, it was a major moment for both the top-rated network and the former president.
It was the first time Trump had faced questioning from one of the network’s straight news journalists since his 2020 election loss.
It was also, notably, Trump’s first news interview on Fox since the network agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787 million to settle claims of defamation stemming from its coverage of Trump’s false claims of a rigged election.
“First of all, I won in 2020 by a lot,” Trump told Baier early in their taped conversation.
The anchor quickly interjected, fighting to say “You know that’s not what —” before Trump talked over him.
Once Trump was finished floating unproven theories about voter fraud, Baier told him plainly: “Mr. President, that’s all been looked into.”
“You lost the 2020 election,” Baier said, following up by asking the former president, as a matter of political strategy heading into 2024, “This is how you’re going to tell an independent suburban voter that they should vote for you?”
Trump, the front-runner for the GOP nomination again in 2024, has been attacking Fox for months, accusing the network of trying to boost his political rivals and not treating him fairly.
Fox’s Hannity and Ramaswamy argue over Haley attacks
Republican presidential primary hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy spent much of 2023 appearing on cable news. Arguably, no appearance was more memorable than an exchange he had with Fox host Sean Hannity after the first GOP debate in October.
“Why would you call Nikki Haley corrupt?” Hannity asked Ramaswamy about his relentless attacks on the former United Nations ambassador on the debate stage the night prior.
“If you’re making money off your time in government, then I don’t think you’re fit to be president of the United States,” Ramaswamy said.
“A lot of people don’t think you’re qualified because you weren’t even a Republican or voting Republican until, what, 2020?” Hannity replied, questioning the entrepreneur’s credentials.
“Well, Sean, it depends on what your objectives with this interview are,” Ramaswamy shot back at the host. “I voted Libertarian in my first election. I voted Republican in 2020. You’re right, I’m not a partisan hack. I come in from the outside. I’m an independent-minded patriot who speaks the truth.”
Ramaswamy then took a more personal approach to his pushback on Hannity, accusing the longtime Trump ally of trying to purposefully paint him in a negative light in front of the host’s millions of viewers.
“I’m enjoying this,” the GOP candidate chuckled. “You have been laughing about the fake news media how many times for the last several years. And now you’re buying the mainstream media narrative, when you know how corrupt it is.”
“I’m quoting your exact words,” Hannity shouted back.
Ramaswamy has been widely criticized for his personal attacks on Haley and other GOP hopefuls but trails Trump, as does the rest of the field, by double digits.
Tapper mocks Comer’s impeachment of Biden
As House Republicans made a late-year impeachment push against President Biden, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) the chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, went on Jake Tapper’s CNN newscast Dec. 8 to explain the basis of the inquiry.
“You’ve called Hunter Biden to testify next week before your committee,” Tapper said, setting up his question to Comer. “You said if he does not appear, you will hold him in contempt of Congress. Hunter Biden has said, and his lawyers, that he’s willing to testify publicly. He just doesn’t want to do it behind closed doors. He’s afraid Republicans will leak his remarks and they’ll put them out of context. Why not just allow his appearance to be public?”
Tapper went a step further, asking Comer why he wasn’t taking an opportunity “to grill Hunter Biden on national television. Here’s your chance, you know? You’re the dog that caught the bus. Here it is.”
Comer shot back his investigation “isn’t about politics and isn’t about theater,” eliciting an audible laugh and a grin from Tapper.
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