Donald Trump will not attend the next Republican debate, the presidential candidate’s campaign manager said just minutes after Trump said he “probably” won’t show up.
“I’m going to be making a decision with Fox, but I probably won’t bother doing the debate,” Trump said at a press conference in Iowa Tuesday night. “I’m going to do something else in Iowa. We’ll have something where we raise money for the veterans and the Wounded Warriors, we’ll do something simultaneously with the debate, but most likely I’m not going to do the debate. I didn’t like the fact that they sent out press releases toying, talking about Putin, and playing games. I don’t know what games Roger Ailes is playing, what’s wrong over there? Something’s wrong.”
“Unlike the very stupid, highly incompetent people running our country into the ground, Mr. Trump knows when to walk away,” said a statement from his campaign confirming that he will not participate in the debate. “He will not be participating in the FOX News debate and will instead host an event in Iowa to raise money for the Veterans and Wounded Warriors, who have been treated so horribly by our all talk, no action politicians.”
Trump has previously threatened to skip debates, but Tuesday’s declaration comes in the midst of a fight he’s having with the network over host Megyn Kelly. Trump has been trying to bar Kelly from hosting Thursday night’s debate in De Moines, alleging that she is biased against him. His problem with Kelly stems from a Republican debate she moderated in August, during which she questioned him bluntly about past sexist comments he’s made.
Fox has released escalating statements in support of Kelly. On Saturday, a Fox spokesperson said, “Megyn Kelly has no conflict of interest. Donald Trump is just trying to build up the audience for Thursday’s debate, for which we thank him.”
On Tuesday, Fox reiterated its support for Kelly. “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 network said in a statement. “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.”
It was this statement Trump seemed to be referencing when he said he he didn’t like the network “playing games.”
“They can’t toy with me like they toy with everybody else,” Trump said. “Let them have their debate, and lets see how they do with the ratings.”
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Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.Rogers@time.com