Washington: Defying conventional wisdom, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has refused to reconsider his decision to skip the party debate before the first crucial nominating contests and in the process become the talk of the talk shows.
As pundits discussed whether his move to sit out Thursday night’s Fox News debate four days before the Iowa caucuses would hurt him or help him, Trump said Wednesday he’d move forward with his own competing event.
His “tremendous” rally at Drake University in Des Moines at the same time as his Republican rivals gather for the debate just two miles away will raise money for wounded veterans, he said.
Suggesting that television networks have made millions of dollars in advertising on debates he’s participated in, Trump said he doesn’t mind debating, but “I just don’t like being used.”
“Fox was going to make a fortune off this debate. Now they’re going to make much less,” said the billionaire real estate mogul on another show on the conservative show as the anchor vainly tried to cajole him to reconsider.
Escalating his long-running feud with Megyn Kelly, Trump lashed out at the Fox News anchor whom he has accused of treating him “unfairly” for questioning him on his past derogatory remarks about women at the first Republican debate in August.
Calling it a “conflict of interest” Trump demanded that Kelly be not allowed to moderate Thursday night’s debate. But Fox News declined to give in. Kelly will be one of the three moderators at the debate.
“I have zero respect for Megyn Kelly,” said Trump. “I don’t think she’s good at what she does and I think she’s highly overrated. And frankly, she’s a moderator; I thought her question last time was ridiculous.”
Kelly herself weighed in that Trump skipping the debate would “probably be a bad decision” while conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh lauded him for “controlling the media.”
But despite Trump’s continued attacks against her, Kelly said he is a “breath of fresh air” in politics.
“He doesn’t care about P.C. culture,” Kelly said in an interview with Time magazine published on Wednesday. “It’s a breath of fresh air.”
Kelly who spoke to Time on Tuesday, just hours before Trump announced his plan to skip Thursday night’s Fox News debate, said her network can’t give in to “terrorizations toward any of our employees.”
Trump’s other Republican presidential rivals also lost no time in criticising him. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said Trump’s decision reminds him of “a 13-year-old arguing.”
Texas Senator Ted Cruz challenged Trump to debate him Saturday night in Sioux City, Iowa. But Trump laughed off Cruz’s call to debate, saying in a message on Twitter that if they did it the contest should be held in Canada, where Cruz was born.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio called Trump’s decision to skip the debate, and Cruz’s one-on-one challenge an “interesting sideshow.”