Despite intense lobbying from Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump refused Wednesday night to back off his decision to skip Thursday’s debate on the cable network.
Trump had announced on Tuesday that he would not do the debate, the last encounter among GOP contenders before the Iowa caucuses Monday. He reiterated his belief that moderator Megyn Kelly was unfair to him during the first GOP debate in August.
“I have zero respect for Megyn Kelly,” said Trump. “I don’t think she’s very good at what she does. She’s highly overrated.”
Pressed by O’Reilly about a perception that the New York billionaire can be petty, Trump acknowledged he does not like “being taken advantage of.” But then he pivoted and turned it into an attribute that would benefit America if he becomes president.
“I’m not going to let our country be taken advantage of” by countries like Iran, said Trump. “It is a personality trait, but I don’t think it’s a bad personality trait.”
O’Reilly defended Kelly — a Fox colleague of his — and said she would be a fair moderator. He urged Trump to change his mind and show up on Thursday. If the moderators are unfair, said O’Reilly, “You got 60 seconds to let them have it right between the eyes.” Trump said his time will be better spent at Drake University in Iowa Thursday night, where he is staging an event to raise money for American veterans.
The Trump interview on Fox was contentious at times. O’Reilly at one point poked Trump for rarely attending church — a contention the real estate mogul denied — and noted that a Christian tenet is forgiveness. O’Reilly asked Trump if forgiving journalists with whom he tangles is the best way forward.
“It probably is, but it’s called an eye for an eye,” Trump said, prompting O’Reilly to point out that the line comes from the Old Testament.
When O’Reilly said Trump should make his campaign about “the folks,” and get away from the personal, Trump replied, “It is about them. It’s about making America great again. It’s not because I want the position.”
Trump said he has been touched meeting Americans all across the country.
“I see unbelievable potential,” he said. “It’s untapped potential because we’re not allowing ourselves to be great.”
So Fox News and voters across America will, in all likelihood, have to do without Trump for debate No. 7. Trump said, “We’re going to go on forever with these debates” and suggested the spectacles are reach a point of diminishing returns.
“Every online poll said I won every one of the debates, especially the last one, by the way,” he said.