Donald Trump just issued a statement backing out of the debate he said he would do with Bernie Sanders, blaming Hillary Clinton and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

“Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher.”

Trump continued:

“Likewise, the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues. Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders –  and it would be an easy payday – I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

That sound you hear is the weeping of TV news execs mourning what might have been – Super Bowl-sized ratings for a televised debate between Trump and the Vermont senator who is running against Clinton for the Dem nomination. Campaign execs on both sides said multiple TV networks had been talking to the candidates about televising the debate, some even agreeing to Trump’s demand the lucky network cough up millions of dollars to go to an unnamed women’s health charity.

‘I hope that he changes his mind – again,” Sanders snarked for TV cameras and reporters at a campaign stop this afternoon. “Mr. Trump is known to change his mind many times in a day. And Trump goes around – he’s a bully, he’s a big tough guy!”

“Well, Mr. Trump, what are you afraid of?” Sander said, looking at the cameras and adding his trademark finger point.

If you guessed #ChickenTrump would start trending not long thereafter, you win:

Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier, who frequently has had Trump on his show, yesterday  had assured his primetime audience the debate talks were real and not a joke. On Baier’s program, Charles Krauthammer called Trump’s participation in a debate with Sanders “my idea of genius,”  explaining “how can Trump lose” and that Clinton will be the big loser because “she’s not going to be there.” He predicted “it’ll be a spectacle.”

But, there had been signs of trouble today before Trump pulled out. Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver this morning said a “number of networks have put forth proposals, including some that would put seven-figure amounts into charity,” per Trump’s demand.

But, he told CNN, “There is a little bit of foot dragging now, it seems, on their side. It may be that there may be some chickening out, or an unwillingness to stand on stage and really debate with Bernie Sanders, because they know Bernie Sanders would do quite well on the debate, frankly.”

Sanders also had tried to shore things up:

And, in a sort of Hail Mary pass, minutes before Trump issued his statement pulling out of the debate, Weaver had issued a statement announcing:

Our campaign and the Trump campaign have received two offers by broadcast television networks to host the Sanders-Trump debate that we suggested. Both offers include a major contribution to charity,”

But, it was to no avail, and Trump reneged, one day after saying he was anxious to debate Sanders. Trump made that remark at a nationally televised news conference celebrating  is having reached the magic 1,237 delegates that secured his GOP nomination.

This no doubt is disappointing to ABC late-night star Jimmy Kimmel who last night told Sanders he hoped to moderate the debate. Sanders’ visit to the show was a celebration of sorts for both men, who’d made headlines Wednesday night when Sanders planted a question on Kimmel’s show, directed at that night’s guest: Trump.

Sanders, via Kimmel, asked Trump if he was willing to debate in advance of the June 7 California primary. Trump agreed immediately but said he wanted to be paid, a lot. Trump continued to make light, until asked about it at a news conference yesterday morning to celebrate news reports he’d clinched the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination. At that news conference he said he wanted to debate  Sanders if it was held in a big arena and someone would cough up $10-15M for “women’s health issues or something.” Trump said he’d already heard from more than one TV network to discuss.