|Roger Ailes (left) Chairman and CEO of the Fox News' propaganda operation, is feuding with the narcissist Donald Trump.|
By Philip Rucker, Dan Balz and Jenna Johnson
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump abruptly announced here Tuesday that he would not participate in Thursday’s scheduled debate, escalating his off-and-on feud with the Fox News Channel and throwing the GOP campaign into turmoil.
Trump’s assertion, which his campaign manager insisted was irreversible, came less than one week before the kick-off Iowa caucuses, once again defying the conventional rules of politics and using his power and prominence to shape the campaign agenda and conversation.
So far, Trump’s untraditional moves have only expanded his support, but his boycott leaves him open to criticism that for all his tough talk he is ducking face-to-face confrontations with his opponents and scrutiny from the Fox moderators.
The Republican debates have become must-see television, in part because of the allure of Trump’s star power and unpredictable candidacy. But he said Tuesday that he thinks Fox and other television networks have been taking advantage of him by selling advertisements for their debates at a high premium.
“Why should the networks continue to get rich on the debates?” Trump told reporters at a news conference in Marshalltown. “Why do I have to make Fox rich?”
The debate is scheduled to be in Des Moines on Thursday, and Trump said he would instead host a competing event in the state designed to raise money for wounded veterans.
Trump is the first candidate in modern memory to say he would withdraw from a debate at such a consequential moment on the primary calendar.
Trump long has objected to the participation of Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly as one of the three moderators, claiming she has treated him unfairly with both her questioning of him at last August’s debate and her commentary since then.
Trump also said that a “wise-guy press release” that the network issued earlier on Tuesday belittling him was inappropriately antagonistic and childish.
Fox’s statement said that network officials “had learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if the becomes president.”
The statement added 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.”