Donald Trump has decided to not participate in the Fox News Republican presidential debate scheduled for Thursday.
The outspoken candidate held a press conference on Tuesday in which he said he would "most likely" skip the debate.
"Let's see how much money Fox is going to make on the debate without me, okay?" he said.
"He's definitely not participating in the Fox News debate," Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski subsequently confirmed to the Washington Post. "His word is his bond."
Lewandowski told reporters that Trump's position was "not under negotiation," and said Trump would remain in Iowa as planned and would instead host an event in the state to raise money for wounded warriors and other veterans groups.
Trump notoriously took exception to questioning from Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly in a previous debate sponsored by the network, remarking afterward to CNN that "he doesn't have a lot of respect" for her as journalist. Then he was quick to prove his point.
"She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions," he said. "And you know, you could see that there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever" — the latter a reference that was widely interpreted to be an off-color reference to menstruation.
Trump had earlier signaled that he was not relishing the prospect of going toe-to-toe with Kelly on Thursday.
"I don't like her. She doesn't treat me fairly. I'm not a big fan of hers at all," he told CNN on Monday. "But that doesn't mean I don't do the debate. I like doing the debates. I've won every single debate according to every poll."
He had suggested over the weekend that Kelly not moderate the debate because she was "biased."
Trump's resolve to avoid Thursday's contest followed the release of a satirical statement given by Fox News to the political news site Talking Points Memo regarding his recent 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," the Fox News statement 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."
The news network's tone got serious after Trump officially withdrew from the debate, as it released a statement suggested the Trump campaign was terrorizing Kelly.
"In a call on Saturday with a Fox News executive, [Corey Lewandowski] stated that Megyn had a 'rough couple of days after that last debate' and he 'would hate to have her go through that again,' " the Fox News statement said. "Lewandowski was warned not to level any more threats, but he continued to do so. We can't give in to terrorizations toward any of our employees."
Trump has often crowed about his ability to draw viewers and attention this campaign season, describing himself as a "ratings machine." As the GOP frontrunner in the presidential race, the prospect of his absence on Thursday will leave an outsized hole on the stage just days ahead of the Iowa caucuses on February 1. Trump would have occupied the middle of the stage, in recognition of his standing in polls.
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