Published January 26, 2016 by Fox News
Donald Trump’s campaign said Tuesday night that the Republican primary front-runner does not plan to participate in the upcoming Fox News/Google debate, shortly after the debate lineup was announced.
Trump’s campaign confirmed the decision to Fox News.
The Republican presidential candidate already had said he probably would not be going, accusing Fox News of “playing games” with him. Trump has cited concerns with one of the debate moderators, Megyn Kelly – but apparently made his decision not to attend following press statements from Fox News.
Trump, though, took heat for his decision not to attend from his closest rival in the polls, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz , who accused Trump of being “afraid of Megyn Kelly.”
“If Donald is afraid to defend his record, it speaks volumes,” Cruz said in a radio interview with Mark Levin, challenging Trump to a one-on-one debate.
The Fox News/Google debate is set for this Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. It would mark the first GOP presidential primary debate that Trump has not attended.
Despite his complaints, he had easily qualified as one of the eight candidates in the prime-time event.
Fox News announced the candidate lineup for that debate earlier Tuesday evening, and the qualifying participants were:
Trump; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio ; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul .
The participants qualifying for the earlier, 7 p.m. ET debate were:
Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
The lineup reflects a polling boost for Paul , who did not qualify for the most recent Fox Business Network prime-time debate earlier this month, and declined to participate in that program’s evening event.
This time, Paul suggested he’ll attend, saying the campaign is “very excited” about qualifying for the main stage.
Meanwhile, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes has defended Megyn Kelly amid the criticism from Trump. He issued a statement earlier to The Washington Post saying,
“Megyn Kelly is an excellent journalist, and the entire network stands behind her. She will absolutely be on the debate stage on Thursday night.”
Trump, speaking earlier in Iowa, said he’d probably raise money for veterans instead of doing the event. And speaking with Fox News’ Bret Baier, Trump said he “didn’t like the press releases Fox put out.”
The Fox News/Google debate in Des Moines this Thursday will be the candidates’ last before next week’s Iowa caucuses – which kicks off the Republican presidential nominating process.
In the run-up, the candidates are ramping up their ad spending and shoe-leather campaigning, while going after each other in the process.Follow @FortySixNews