Two days after Fox News Channel announced it would host the next GOP debate, the morning after Donald Trump mopped up on Super Tuesday 3 despite the best efforts of Republican Party members to stop his momentum, and shortly after Trump announced he would be a no-show at the debate, the network threw in the towel and announced that what would have been the 13th GOP debate of this election cycle was toast.
This statement from Fox News Channel EVP News Michael Clemente:
“On Feb. 20, the Republican National Committee announced that a GOP presidential primary debate would be held on March 21 in Salt Lake City. They offered that debate to Fox News Channel to host, provided there were enough candidates actively campaigning. This morning, Donald Trump announced he would not be participating in the debate. Shortly afterward, John Kasich’s campaign announced that without Trump at the debate, Kasich would not participate. Ted Cruz has expressed a willingness to debate Trump or Kasich — or both. But obviously, there needs to be more than one participant. So the Salt Lake City debate is cancelled.”
On the bright side, Trump did give the official word first to Fox & Friends this morning, saying in an interview: “I think we’ve had enough debates. … How many times can the same people ask you the same question?”
According to sources close to the matter, the network delayed announcing what had looked inevitable since yesterday as Clemente labored to understand whether Trump genuinely intended to bail or would change his position on this, as he has done on so many subjects in his rule-breaking campaign, and then to try to resurrect the debate with RNC and the candidate’s camp.
Trump’s participation looked dubious since Noah Pollak, exec director at the Emergency Committee for Israel, tweeted that Trump was going to speak at a gathering of the lobbying org American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington on the same night, and political sites picked it up, starting with The Hill. Last night, Trump poured lighter fluid on that report, with a Twitter tirade in which he blasted Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly as “crazy” and “unwatchable” — echoing his strategy before he pulled out of FNC’s January GOP debate. He also took a swing at Kelly during his victory speech, though he did not cite her by name.