Donald Trump dodges Fox News debate

  • 17/03/2016
Donald Trump speaking at a news conference yesterday (Reuters)
Donald Trump speaking at a news conference yesterday (Reuters)

The US Republican presidential debate scheduled for next week in Utah has been cancelled, host Fox News says, after party front-runner Donald Trump told the network he would not participate.

Mr Trump, who has clashed with Fox News throughout his campaign, told the network in an interview on Wednesday (local time) he would not appear at the event, scheduled for Monday, because he thought the Republicans had "had enough debates".

Ohio Governor John Kasich said afterwards he would also skip the debate unless Mr Trump changed his mind and decided to come.

US Senator Ted Cruz, the third remaining Republican candidate for the party's nomination for the November 8 presidential election, criticised Mr Trump on Twitter, calling him #DuckingDonald and urging his supporters to tell Mr Trump to attend.

Fox News, part of the Twenty-First Century Fox broadcast media and entertainment company controlled by Rupert Murdoch, had earlier this week announced the debate, to be held in Salt Lake City, its latest in the primary season. Utah holds its presidential primary next Tuesday.

"Ted Cruz has expressed a willingness to debate Trump or Kasich - or both. But obviously, there needs to be more than one participant," Fox News Channel's executive vice president of news Michael Clemente said in a statement. "So the Salt Lake City debate is cancelled."

After the cancellation, Mr Trump posted on Twitter that he would be making a "big speech" the night of the debate, "but I wish everyone well".

The brash New York billionaire skipped a Fox News debate in Iowa in January after complaining he had been mistreated by the network. He has long clashed with anchor Megyn Kelly and revived criticism of her on Tuesday, saying on Twitter she was "crazy" and "unwatchable".

The Iowa debate went on as scheduled, despite Mr Trump's decision to host a rally at the same time. But back in January, the Republican field was much larger, with Mr Trump among eight contenders who qualified to participate in the Iowa debate, and four others qualifying for an earlier "undercard" debate.

Wednesday marked the first time either party has cancelled a debate.

Mr Trump's participation in the debates has helped networks draw record audiences to the events. Two previous debates this election cycle hosted by Fox News attracted the two largest US audiences for non-sports cable TV programs in history.