IOWA CITY, Iowa | Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump isn’t backing down Wednesday from his threat to boycott this week’s GOP debate, where candidates have the opportunity to make their closing arguments before voting begins in Monday’s Iowa caucuses.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said in a pair of television interviews Wednesday that Trump, a billionaire businessman, “knows when to walk away from a bad deal.”
“They think they can toy with Mr. Trump,” Lewandowski said of Fox News on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “Mr. Trump doesn’t play games.”
The decision comes after a showdown between the network and GOP candidate over who should moderate Thursday night’s debate. Trump has been in a feud with Fox News host and scheduled debate moderator Megyn Kelly since the first Republican primary debate, when Kelly took Trump to task over derogatory statements he’d made in the past aimed at women.
While Trump has threatened to skip debates in the past and not gone through with the threat, a sarcastic statement from Fox appeared to push him over the edge.
That statement said the leaders of Iran and Russia “both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president” and that “Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”
Trump, who has called Kelly a “lightweight” and biased, told reporters at an Iowa press conference Wednesday night that he would be holding a fundraising event in Iowa at the same time as the debate to benefit veterans and wounded soldiers instead.
While Fox questioned how “Iowans are going to feel about him walking away from them at the last minute,” Lewandowski said the decision shows Trump is a leader who “understands when a bad deal is in front of him and is ready to walk away from a bad deal, something that this country should be able to do.”
“At the end of the day,” he added on MSNBC, “Mr. Trump is going to have the last laugh.”