Republican front-runner Donald Trump has decided to withdraw from Thursday’s presidential candidate debate in Des Moines, Iowa, following his unsuccessful efforts to get Fox News personality Megyn Kelly booted as a debate moderator.
Trump’s campaign issued a statement saying the candidate would skip the debate and instead host an event in Iowa to raise money for “the Veterans and Wounded Warriors.”
“Trump knows a bad deal when he sees one. Fox News is making tens of millions of dollars on debates and setting ratings records (the highest in history), where as [sic] in previous years they were low-rated afterthoughts,” the campaign said in a statement. “Unlike the very stupid, highly incompetent people running our country into the ground, Mr. Trump knows when to walk away.”
The candidate has been engaging in a one-sided war of words with Fox News personality Megyn Kelly, who would be among the debate moderators. Trump aired his grievances on CNN on Monday, telling news anchor Wolf Blitzer, “I don’t like her. She doesn’t treat me fairly. I’m not a big fan of hers at all.”
Kelly was the first television journalist to call billionaire Trump on his sexist remarks. The exchange went viral on social networks as Trump continued his battle on Twitter — his attack vehicle of choice — which Kelly largely ignored.
Trump took his beef to Twitter, claiming that Kelly wouldn’t treat him fairly, and suggesting that she should be removed as moderator because of her alleged “conflict of interest and bias.”
Trump brought his rant to Instagram, releasing a video in which he complained, “Megyn Kelly is really biased against me. She knows that. I know that. Everybody knows that. Do you really think she could be fair at a debate?”
When the Instagram tantrum failed to get Kelly ejected from the moderator’s seat, Trump turned to his 5.8 million Twitter followers to ask whether he should participate in the Fox News debate.
Though the majority indicated yes, Trump apparently decided that — given his commanding lead in the polls — he didn’t need to participate in the debate.
Fox News stepped to Kelly’s defense.
“Sooner or later Donald Trump, even if he’s president, is going to have to learn that he doesn’t get to pick the journalists — we’re very surprised he’s willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly,” the network said in a statement.
Later, the network followed up with a cheekier statement that said, in part, “We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president.”
Twitter didn’t allow the moment to pass without comment. Consider this riff on Trump’s “Make America Great Again” baseball cap:
We contacted representatives for Trump and Fox News. Neither has responded to our requests for comment.