In a phone interview on “Fox and Friends,” Trump said he “was very surprised when I heard that Fox called for a debate.” His rival John Kasich then indicated that he would not participate.
“I think we have had enough debates,” Trump said (via CBS News). “We have had 11 or 12 debates. I did really well on the last one. I think I have done well in all the debates… But I think we’ve had enough. How many times can the same people ask you the same question?”
He added: “Nobody told me about it. And I won’t be there, no. I’m making a very major speech in front of a very important group of people.”
That “very important group of people” turns out to be the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which holds its annual conference in Washington, D.C., from March 20-22.
Fox News’ executive VP of news Michael Clemente confirmed that the debate had been cancelled in an email to Variety.
“On Feb. 20, the Republican National Committee announced that a GOP presidential primary debate would be held on March 21 in Salt Lake City,” Clemente said. “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.”
A source close to the matter explained that the network was slow to confirm the debate’s cancellation because Clemente was still trying to persuade Trump to participate. Trump himself admitted at the recent CNN debate that he was aware more debates were on the horizon. “I think they want to do two more debates, and I guess I’m pretty much okay with it,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
This is not the first debate Trump has elected to skip. He boycotted January’s Fox News debate, hosted by his media nemesis, Megyn Kelly. He continued to criticize her on Twitter on Tuesday.
The debates have proven a ratings bonanza for cable news networks, starting with Fox News’s first GOP debate in August, which drew a record 24 million viewers. Democratic debates have delivered smaller numbers, but still have shattered records. CNN’s coverage of the first Democratic debate in October drew 15.3 million viewers, setting a new record for the party’s primary debates.
The question now is whether there will be another GOP primary debate, after Trump’s declaration that “we’ve had enough.” The Democratic National Committee has debates slated for April and May, but no details and dates have been announced.