True to form, Trump makes a big show of skipping GOP debate and staging benefit for veterans – Los Angeles Times

Less than a year after giving up his reality show to run for president, Donald Trump proved Thursday night that he still has a television executive’s touch.

After dropping out of the Republican debate because of a feud with Fox News, Trump, the former star of “The Apprentice,” decided to host his own counter-programming just three miles away. While his rivals for the Republican nomination butted heads over immigration and foreign policy, the New York businessman did what he does best: put on a show.

The event’s official purpose was to honor veterans, and Trump drew gasps by announcing that he had raised $6 million in donations for veterans groups, including $1 million from himself. Dozens of veterans attended, some wearing Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats.

“This is like the Academy Awards,” Trump said, gesturing to cameras broadcasting the event live on CNN and other Fox News competitors. “We’re actually told that we have more cameras than they do,” he said of the debate.

Skipping a debate just days before the Iowa caucuses was a bold move by Trump, who is leading in polls here and across the country. But it was characteristic of a candidate who has relied on his skills as a performer on the campaign trail.

Trump has largely scorned the small-town stops and town halls of traditional retail politics, opting instead for big, televised rallies and other events, such as his trip to the Mexican border in July and his speech aboard the battleship Iowa in September in San Pedro. He often arrives by private jet.

Those theatrics are what attracted some to Trump’s event at Drake University on Thursday, including Drake students who didn’t even support his candidacy.

“We’re all here to be entertained,” said Julia VanPetten, a 19-year-old freshman at Drake and one of hundreds of people turned away from the event because the theater was full. “He’s a spectacle.”

VanPetten supports Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, but took pictures in front of a Trump sign with several of her sorority sisters while waiting outside in temperatures hovering around freezing.

Trump announced his event Tuesday after abruptly withdrawing from the Republican debate over disagreements with Fox News that date back to August, when network star Megyn Kelly asked him about his history of calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”

Since then Trump has repeatedly attacked Kelly, dismissing her as a “lightweight” and demanding she be removed as a moderator for Thursday’s debate. Fox News Chairman and Chief Executive Roger Ailes refused and released a statement mocking Trump.


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