Contenders for the GOP nomination dumped on Donald Trump for planning to skip Thursday’s Fox News debate in Iowa because of his feud with moderator Megyn Kelly.
Trump’s campaign released a statement Tuesday night saying that the real-estate mogul “will not be participating in the Fox News debate and will instead host an event in Iowa to raise money for the veterans and wounded warriors.”
Fox said Trump’s campaign manager threatened Kelly, and thus the network dug in its heels.
“We’re not sure how Iowans are going to feel about him walking away from them at the last minute, but it should be clear to the American public by now that this is rooted in one thing – Megyn Kelly, whom he has viciously attacked since August and has now spent four days demanding be removed from the debate stage. Capitulating to politicians’ ultimatums about a debate moderator violates all journalistic standards, as do threats, including the one leveled by Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski toward Megyn Kelly,” Fox said in a statement.
“In a call on Saturday with a FOX News executive, Lewandowski stated that Megyn had a ‘rough couple of days after that last debate’ and he ‘would hate to have her go through that again.’ Lewandowski was warned not to level any more threats, but he continued to do so. We can’t give in to terrorizations toward any of our employees.”
Fox stressed that Trump is still free to show up and debate and he’ll be “treated fairly, just as he has been during his 132 appearances on FOX News & FOX Business, but he can’t dictate the moderators or the questions.”
Trump told reporters in Iowa on Tuesday night that he didn’t like the previous statement put out by Fox.
“Why should the networks continue to get rich on the debates?” Trump said. “Why do I have to make Fox rich?”
Fox first said after Trump suggested he might skip the debate: “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 — a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Hannity last night that “any candidate for president owes it to the voters to go and stand in front of them, to answer the hard questions.”
“I think it’s really remarkable that Donald Trump thinks so little of the men and women of Iowa that he is willing to skip the debate altogether. He doesn’t think he should have any questions on his record. And it’s really quite astonishing that Donald is apparently so afraid of Megyn Kelly,” Cruz said.
Cruz later said “the reason Donald is doing this, I actually don’t think it’s because of Megyn. I think it’s because he’s afraid to defend his record, that he knows he can’t defend his record and he’s trying to hide from the voters of Iowa.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) issued a statement this morning noting that “America is heading in the wrong direction, and people are right to be angry about it.”
“But it’s not enough just to be angry. The next president has to have a real plan to turn the page on Obama and his disastrous policies, and they have to be willing and able to sell that plan to the American people. That’s why these debates are so important,” Rubio said.
“These kinds of theatrics by Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are an entertaining sideshow, but they have nothing to do with defeating Hillary Clinton… we don’t have time for these kinds of distractions.”
“Fox News just demoted me from the main stage to the second debate. I didn’t whine, I didn’t cry, and I didn’t not show up,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on Kelly’s show last night.
“The American people should wonder, you know, if you’re not willing to show up when everything isn’t going your way and exactly the way you want to… America wants a fighter who shows up.”
Ben Carson said he thinks Trump will show up anyway.
“It doesn’t matter whether he’s there or not,” Carson told Fox. “I would be surprised if he’s not there, though.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who will be in the undercard debate with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Carly Fiorina and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, offered to take Trump’s spot on the main stage.
“There’s an opening. I’ll be happy to take it. And I will do it on behalf of all the people that I have met in this state who are not on any stage,” Huckabee told Hannity. “They’re not on the undercard. They’re not on the big stage. They’re being pummeled by the policies of this administration.”