Frontrunner Donald Trump will not participate in the last Republican party debate tomorrow, opting out of the nationally televised clash just five days before the crucial Iowa caucuses over a woman anchor he calls “biased”.
Trump, 69, publicly said: “probably I won’t be doing the debate” as he accused the host Fox News of “playing games”.
“Let’s see how much money Fox is making without me,” Trump told reporters in Iowa yesterday.
Trump made the remarks soon after Fox announced the lineup for its Republican debate tomorrow - the last one before the crucial Iowa Caucus on February 1 - that would have anchor Megyn Kelly as one of the moderators.
Trump, who is leading all polls, would have taken the centre-stage during the debate. In his absence, this would be taken up by his distant rival Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Later, Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told reporters: “He will not be participating in the Fox News debate on Thursday” and that “it’s not under negotiation”.
The manager said that it is pretty “irrevocable” that he will skip the event, which takes place days before the crucial Iowa Caucus.
One of the main reasons that Trump decided against participating in the debate - unheard of in the American presidential election - was the Fox insistence on having its Kelly as one of the moderators.
“The drama capped an increasingly heated war of words involving Mr Trump, Mrs Kelly and Fox News as the debate neared and as Mr Trump found himself facing the prospect of being questioned by her again before a national audience,” The New York Times said.
The report said Trump has called her “dishonest, accused her of bias and a conflict of interest, and said flat-out that he did not like her”.
Instead, the real estate tycoon said he would be holding another event in Iowa which would raise funds for veterans. The Republican presidential frontrunner said that he took the decision in this regard after press statements from Fox News.
One such statement had said: “We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah (Khomeini) and (Vladimir) 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.”
Fox News said it would go ahead with the debate as scheduled.
“The Fox News/Google debate is set for tomorrow in Des Moines, Iowa. It would mark the first GOP presidential primary debate that Trump has not attended,” it said on its website.
Cruz, his main Republican rival, criticised Trump for his decision and challenged him for a one-on-one debate.