In a surprising move, GOP front-runner Donald Trump has pulled out of Thursday evening’s Republican debate in Des Moines, Iowa.
Citing annoyance with Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly, who will co-moderate the debate, and insisting he will not allow Fox or other networks to benefit financially by his presence on the stage, the Trump campaign announced their candidate will instead host a fundraiser for wounded veterans in Des Moines.
Trump’s objection to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly surfaced last August during the inaugural GOP debate when Kelly relentlessly quizzed Trump on his candor, specifically his public remarks about women. Kelly followed-up by questioning Trump’s temperament if elected president.
The exchange which followed between Trump and Kelly inspired a public feud which settled with Fox vigorously defending its anchor.
Trump revived his quarreling recently with calls for Kelly’s removal as moderator of Thursday’s debate.
Fox News responded Monday defending Ms. Kelly and expressed dismay that Trump feared being cross-examined by the well-liked news host. Fox informed the real estate mogul he cannot dictate terms of the debate and Ms. Kelly would remain a host.
What drew Trump’s ire and initiated a string of bulletins between the Trump camp and popular media outlet was a follow-up statement from Fox News which read:
“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.”
Characterizing Fox News as a “disgrace” and labeling Megyn Kelly a “lightweight,” Trump immediately responded at a press conference in Marshalltown, Iowa:
“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.'”
Stating it would not capitulate to politicians’ ultimatums, Fox immediately rejoined:
“We can’t give in to terrorizations toward any of our employees.”
Mr. Trump should welcome any challenge from any network or journalist at any time.
All politicians have at times sought to avoid or ignore inquiries from a nettlesome and tenacious press corps, but by retreating to his insular world, Mr. Trump is signaling his dauntless reputation is overstated and a refusal to embrace legitimate queries even in the friendly surroundings of a Fox News-hosted event.
How does Mr. Trump expect to navigate through presidential press conferences, overriding domestic trials or momentous foreign provocations originating from despots when he retreats from an innocuous primary debate?
Mr. Trump can castigate his critics with graceless answers and has the luxury of culling his battles for the moment. If elected to the presidency, he will learn fleeing from the discomfort of an annoying journalist is no longer an alternative.
[WashingtonPost] [Reuters] [pbs.twing.com] [Photo courtesy examiner.com]