Washington | Donald Trump, a controversial Republican presidential front-runner, today shunned the last primary debate before the Iowa caucus but relished the drama triggered by his snub of a top US news network, taunting his rivals at a competing fundraising event schemed to chide them. I wanted to be about five minutes away at the GOP debate but you have to stick up for your rights. When you’re treated badly, you have to stick up to your rights, Trump told a packed auditorium, where he raised USD 6 million for veterans.
I have to go a step further and say that Fox has been extremely nice in the last number of hours, he said. They called a few minutes ago. Can you come over? I say, hasn’t it already started? he joked. Hundreds of Trump supporters were seen waiting for hours to enter the auditorium for the event organised at a short notice after the real estate tycoon had a simmering feud with the conservative Fox News, which hosted the primary debate.
The 69-year-old billionaire, who has been leading national and local polls among the crowded Republican candidates, said he decided to skip the debate because he was treated very unfairly by Fox News. Trump’s boycott has injected en element of chaos to the presidential race just days before the February 1 Iowa Caucus. At the event, Trump was joined by two other Republican presidential candidates, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who interestingly were the winners of the last two Iowa caucuses. Let me be very clear.
Rick Santorum, Donald Trump and I may be competitors in a presidential race, but tonight we are colleagues in unison standing here for the veterans of the United States of America, Huckabee said. Earlier in an interview to CNN, Trump claimed that Fox News apologised to him. They called me. They want me there very badly. And by the time they apologised, I said, look, the problem is we now have a big event scheduled for the vets.
However, Fox News in a statement said the network’s CEO Roger Ailes had three brief conversations with Trump, where he acknowledged his concerns about a satirical observation we made in order to quell the attacks on (anchor) Megyn Kelly, and prevent her from being smeared any further. Fox said Trump offered to show up at the debate if the network contributed USD 5 million to his charities. In the last 48 hours, we’ve kept two issues at the forefront – we would never compromise our journalistic standards and we would always stand by our journalist, Megyn Kelly, the network said.