Republican front runner Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday that he's unlikely to attend Thursday night's primary Republican debate because its host, Fox News, is "playing games."
"I probably won't bother doing the debate," he said at a press conference in Marshalltown, Iowa. "I'm going to do something else in Iowa. We will do something where we raise money for the veterans and the Wounded Warriors. We are going to do something simultaneously with the debate, but most likely I will not be doing the debate"
Asked whether his decision was irrevocable, Trump responded, "Pretty close to irrevocable." He said he wasn't worried about how the decision would affect his standing in Iowa.
"I think I will do great in Iowa," he said. "I love Iowa, I don't think Iowa is going to care."
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told reporters the decision was definitive: "I mean look, I mean, ultimately it is Mr. Trump's decision, but he has been very clear that he is not going to participate in the Fox News debate on Thursday."
Earlier in the day day, Trump was contemplating whether to skip Thursday's GOP presidential debate because he doesn't like Fox News host and debate moderator Megyn Kelly. The billionaire real estate mogul posted a video on Instagram and asked his followers whether he should participate in the Des Moines debate.
"Megyn Kelly's really biased against me. She knows that, I know that, everybody knows that," he said. "Do you really think she can be fair at a debate?"
A day earlier, Trump threatened in an interview on CNN to skip the debate because of Kelly, who's set to moderate the upcoming debate.
"Nothing's 100 percent, I'm not 100 percent," Trump said. "I'll see. If I think I'm going to be treated unfairly, I'd do something else. I don't think she can treat me fairly, I think she's very biased. But that doesn't mean I don't do the debate. I like doing debates."
Trump has previously threatened to skip debates, but has attended all of them so far. The billionaire candidate told the Boston Globe's James Pindell that he had spoken with Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and said Kelly "should recuse herself" from the debate.
Fox News poked fun at Trump's misgivings.
"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 statement read. "[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."
After Fox released that statement, Trump hardened his stance against attending the debate.
"I didn't like the fact that they sent out press releases toying, talking about Putin and playing games," he said in his Tuesday press conference. "I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing or what's wrong over there... They can't toy with me like they toy with everybody else, so let them have their debate, and let's see how they do with the ratings."
Kelly and Trump have been at odds since last summer, when Kelly asked him at the first GOP debate about his statements about women. Trump, thereafter, insulted Kelly and said, "She had blood coming out of her eyes, she had blood coming out of her wherever," among other things.
UPDATE: Later Tuesday evening, the Trump campaign released a statement saying that instead of participating in the debate, Trump will host an event in Iowa to raise money for the veterans and Wounded Warriors.
"Unlike the very stupid, highly incompetent people running our country into the ground, Mr. Trump knows when to walk away," the statement said. "Roger Ailes and FOX News think they can toy with him, but Mr. Trump doesn't play games."
Meanwhile, Fox released a statement calling Trump's decision "near unprecedented."
"This is rooted in one thing - Megyn Kelly, whom he has viciously attacked since August and has now spent four days demanding be removed from the debate stage," the network said. "Capitulating to a politicians' ultimatums about a debate moderator violates all journalistic standards."
for more features.