U.S. Republican presidential Donald Trump withdrew on Tuesday from a debate with party rivals this week out of anger at host Fox News, leaving the last encounter before Iowa’s pivotal nominating contest without the front-runner.
Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, told reporters after a combative news conference held by the candidate that Trump would most certainly be not part of the debate scheduled for Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, and co-hosted by Google
Trump expressed irritation that Fox News planned to leave in place as a moderator the anchor Megyn Kelly, whose questioning of Trump at a debate last August angered him. He also expressed displeasure at a Fox News statement on Monday night saying Trump would have to learn sooner or later that “he doesn’t get to pick the journalists” and that “we’re very surprised he’s willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly.”
“I was all set to do the debate, I came here to do the debate. When they sent out the wise-guy press release done by some PR person along with (Fox News Chairman) Roger Ailes, I said: ‘Bye bye, OK.
“Let’s see how much money Fox makes without me in the debate,” he added.
Mr Trump’s Republican rivals quickly criticized him for opting out of the debate.
“The fact that Donald is now afraid to appear on the debate stage, that he doesn’t want his record questioned, I think that reflects a lack of respect for the men and women on Iowa,” said Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who is in a tight race with Mr Trump for first place in the state.
Senator Cruz invited Mr Trump to take part in a one-on-one debate instead. “If he thinks Megyn Kelly is so scary, what exactly does he think he’d do with Vladimir Putin?” Senator Cruz said.
Trump has been involved in a public outburst with Fox News since the network hosted the first debate and Kelly asked Trump about his treatment of woman, prompting a stream of insults from the candidate.
At the news conference on Tuesday, Trump was introduced by Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has sought tougher measures against illegal immigrants.
“Everything I believe in he’s doing and he’s going to do it as president,” said Arpaio.
Trump, pressed on his plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and deport many illegal immigrants, defended his proposal and said he would be able to persuade the U.S. Congress to go along with his plan.
On Tuesday afternoon, Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) tweeted “Should I do the #GOPdebate?” with a Twitter poll and a link to an Instagram video of himself complaining about Kelly of Fox News, which is owned by Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. She is expected to moderate the Thursday debate.
“Megyn Kelly’s really biased against me,” Trump said in the video. “She knows that, I know that, everybody knows that. Do you really think she can be fair at a debate?”
Fox News appeared perplexed by Trump’s comments.
“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 representative for Fox News said. “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.”
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