US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has withdrawn from a debate with party rivals this week out of anger at host Fox News , leaving the last encounter before Iowa's pivotal nominating contest without the front-runner.
Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, told reporters after a combative news conference held by the candidate that Trump would definitely not be participating in the debate.
During the news conference before he addressed a large crowd in Marshalltown, Iowa, Trump expressed irritation that Fox News planned to leave in place as a moderator anchor Megyn Kelly, whose questioning of Trump at a debate last August angered him.
He also expressed displeasure at a Fox News statement on Monday night saying Trump would have to learn sooner or later that "he doesn't get to pick the journalists" and that "we're very surprised he's willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly".
"I was all set to do the debate, I came here to do the debate. When they sent out the wise-guy press release done by some PR person along with (Fox News chairman) Roger Ailes, I said: 'Bye bye, OK'.
"Let's see how much money Fox makes without me in the debate," he added.
The debate is scheduled for just days before Iowa's caucuses, the first nominating contest for the November 8 presidential election.
Trump's blunt-spoken candidacy has boosted ratings for the Republican presidential debates. The August debate on Fox News drew 24 million viewers, a record for a presidential primary debate and the highest non-sports telecast in cable TV history.
His boycott will leave Thursday's debate without the leader in the crowded Republican field not only in Iowa but nationally.
Ahead of Iowa's caucuses next Monday, Trump leads in the polls over Texas senator Ted Cruz, whom Trump dismissed as a "nasty guy" whom "nobody likes".
A boycott could prove risky for Trump as Iowa Republicans seek to take one more look at who they want as their presidential candidate. Rivals like Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson could reap the benefits.
But Trump, a billionaire businessman and former reality TV star, said he would hold a competing event to raise money for US military veterans.
"How many debates do you have to do?" Trump told reporters. "The Democrats are finished with their debates. ... The Republicans go on forever and ever and ever with debates. We have people on the stand who have zero (percentage points in the poll), who have one, who have nothing. So it's time that somebody plays grown up."
Trump has been engaged in a public spat with Fox News since the network hosted the first debate and Kelly asked Trump about his treatment of woman, prompting a stream of insults from the candidate.
At his campaign event in Marshalltown, Trump expressed confidence in his position in the race, saying if he were to win Iowa, he could "run the table" and roll up subsequent victories in New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond.
"Iowa is very important. So you've got to get out, you've got to get out and caucus," he told his supporters.