Donald Trump said Wednesday morning that he will skip next week’s Republican presidential debate because he already has plans to deliver a “very major speech.”
“I’m making a very major speech in front of a very important group of people,” he said on “Fox & Friends,” later confirming that the remarks will be delivered before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Trump said his speech at the powerful lobbying group’s conference in Washington “was scheduled a while ago.”
All presidential candidates of both parties were invited to speak at the multi-day conference, though so far only the only other contender on AIPAC’s list of speakers is democrat Hillary Clinton.
Fox News on Monday announced that it would host a GOP debate on March 21 in Salt Lake City. It will be the 13th Republican debate of this election cycle; at the first, in August, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly opened by questioning Trump about disparaging remarks he has made about women — sparking a feud that has simmered for seven months.
In January, Trump skipped a Fox debate in Des Moines, an act he later said may have contributed to his second-place finish in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
“I think some people were disappointed that I didn’t go,” Trump said in early February.
He participated in a debate earlier this month in Detroit and avoided any confrontations with Kelly, though he has continued to disparage her since then.
After Trump told Fox that he wouldn’t come to its next debate, some immediately cast doubt on his explanation, suggesting that a group such as AIPAC would allow a leading presidential candidate multiple opportunities to speak before its members.
Dan Senor, whose tweet is embedded above, served on Sen. Marco Rubio’s National Security Advisory Council.
On Fox, Trump said he thought the Republican field had held “enough” debates.
“We’ve had 11 or 12 debates; I did really well on the last one, I think I’ve done well on all the debates,” he said. “I mean, according to Drudge and everybody else, I won the debates. But I think we’ve had enough.
“How many times can the same people ask you the same question? So I was very surprised when I heard that Fox called for a debate. Nobody told me about it and I will not be there, no.”
Of the debates, he added: “You know who loves them? The networks love them.”