Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is planning his own counter-programming to Thursday night’s Fox News debate.
“We’ll raise some money for the ‘Wounded Warriors’. We’ll raise money for the vets,” Trump told reporters in Marshalltown early this evening. “…I was all set to do the debate. I came here to do the debate. When they sent out the wise guy press releases a little while ago, done by some PR person, along with Roger Ailes, I said: ‘Bye, bye.'”
Ailes is the chairman and CEO of Fox News. Trump has been objecting to having Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly as one of the debate moderators — and he’s been needling all the networks that have sponsored the GOP candidate debates to forgo the ad revenue from the broadcasts.
“With me, they’re dealing with somebody that’s a little bit different,” Trump said. “They can’t toy with me like they toy with everybody else, so let ’em have their debate and let’s see how they do with the ratings. I told them, I said: ‘Give money to the “Wounded Warriors”, give money to the veterans.’ They’re going to make a fortune with the debate. Now let’s see how many people watch.”
Trump has participated in the six previous televised debates for the leading Republican presidential candidates. Trump has a list of complaints about the process, including the way the networks decided which candidates qualified to stand on stage.
“We have people on the (stage) that zero, that have one, that have nothing, so it’s time that somebody plays grown-up,” Trump said. “Why do I have to make Fox rich? Let me make the ‘Wounded Warriors’ rich. Let me make the veterans rich.”
His decision to skip the debate is “pretty close to irrevocable” and Trump said he “doesn’t want to be used” by Fox.
“So most likely I won’t be doing the debate,” Trump said.
Earlier today Trump had asked his nearly six million Twitter followers if he should participate in the Fox debate. In response, a Fox News spokesperson issued a statement saying the network had learned from a “nefarious source” that Trump had a “secret plan” if he becomes president to replace his Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should attend Cabinet meetings.
Fox executives have said the entire network stands behind Megyn Kelly and she will “absolutely” be asking questions at the debate Thursday night. Fox News announced late this afternoon it had invited Trump and seven other candidates onto the main debate stage at the Iowa Events Center.