Republican frontrunner Donald Trump announced on Tuesday night that he is boycotting the upcoming Fox News Republican debate scheduled for this Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.
Trump's campaign said Tuesday that instead of the debate he will "host an event in Iowa to raise money for the Veterans and Wounded Warriors."
"With me, they're dealing with somebody that's a little bit different," Trump said while bashing Fox for "playing games" with him. "They can't toy with me like they toy with everybody else. Let them have their debate and let's see how they do with the ratings."
In response, Fox journalist and debate moderator Megyn Kelly said "I’ll be there…the debate will go on with or without Mr. Trump."
Trump has taken aim at Kelly since a debate last August, when he accused her of attacking him, and employed insulting language saying Kelly had "blood coming out of her wherever." As part of his explanation for boycotting the upcoming debate, he called Kelly a "lightweight" and a "third-rate reporter."
His campaign manager Corey Lewandowski also threatened to ramp up the verbal attacks on Kelly from the August debate, with Fox releasing a statement saying Lewandowski on Saturday said Kelly "had a ‘rough couple of days after that last debate’ and he ‘would hate to have her go through that again.'"
"Lewandowski was warned not to level any more threats, but he continued to do so. We can’t give in to terrorizations toward any of our employees," added the statement.
"Afraid of Megyn Kelly"
Trump's rival Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) criticized the real estate mogul for running away from the debate, accusing him of being "afraid of Megyn Kelly."
"If Donald is afraid to defend his record, it speaks volumes," Cruz said, challenging Trump to a one-on-one debate.
Cruz and Trump had largely avoided head-to-head confrontations until the last Fox debate earlier this month when they clashed. Tensions are growing between the two ahead of the Iowa February 1 caucuses, where polls have shown them neck-and-neck.
In a new ad by a political action committee backing Cruz, Trump is accused of being aligned with Democrats on "government-run health care," while another ad condemns the businessman's "New York values," showing a clip of him saying, "how stupid are the people of Iowa?"
Trump responded by calling Cruz a "liar" on MSNBC on Tuesday, saying, "nobody likes him."
Trump has been widely criticized for his harsh language and outspoken statements. Recently he finally echoed Cruz's promises to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; previously he had refused to rule out dividing Jerusalem as part of peace talks he said he plans to foist on Israel.