Donald Trump taunts Fox over debate no-show

DES MOINES (United States) • Mr Donald Trump was visibly delighted about the drama unleashed by his snub of Thursday's Republican presidential debate - taunting his rivals and host channel Fox News from a nearby charity event designed to steal their thunder.

The billionaire Republican front runner boycotted the debate in Des Moines, Iowa, as part of a simmering feud with the conservative news network and went on to schedule a competing event for military veterans, broadcast at the same time and in the same city.

"When you're treated badly, you have to stick up for your rights," the 69-year-old mogul said as he opened the event, doubling down on his claim that Fox News - and particularly its anchor Megyn Kelly - has been biased against him.

"I have to go a step further and say that Fox has been extremely nice in the last number of hours," he added. "They called a few minutes ago. Can you come over? I say, hasn't it already started?" he mused. "They've been very nice and wanted me to go, and apologised and everything. But once this started, it's for our vets; there was nothing I could do."

Fox News issued a statement saying its chief Roger Ailes had spoken to Mr Trump and "acknowledged his concerns". It added that Mr Trump had offered to appear at the debate on condition Fox News contribute US$5 million (S$7 million) to his charities, which it refused to do.

Mr Trump's no-show plunged the presidential race into uncharted waters just days before Iowans vote on Feb 1, opening the months-long nomination process to pick the Democratic and Republican candidates for the November election.

Mr Trump had taunted Fox News and his rivals before the debate, saying that the event would be a "total disaster" with low ratings.

On stage he gloated at the turnout for his duelling charity fund-raiser for veterans - pulled together just a few kilometres from the Fox News event in 24 hours, he claimed.

"Look at all the cameras. This is like the Academy Awards... We have thousands of people outside trying to get in," he quipped, adding that his event had raised over US$5 million for charity.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Trump taunts Fox over debate no-show'. Print Edition | Subscribe