Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Tuesday he will boycott his party’s next nationally televised debate and instead hold an event to benefit wounded troops.
In comments to journalists before an Iowa rally, first reported by Politico and the Washington Post, the business mogul and GOP frontrunner accused Fox News of picking a “biased” moderator — network personality Megyn Kelly — to drive up ratings and hurt his campaign.
The debate, scheduled for Thursday night, is the seventh since August. Trump has also complained that the events are too frequent and too long.
Thursday’s debate is the final event before the Iowa caucuses, set for Feb. 1.
Trump asked reporters “why should the networks continue getting rich on the debates?" He also suggested he would hold an event to benefit wounded warriors in Iowa rather than appearing alongside the other Republican hopefuls.
Trump previously promised to attend the debate if Fox executives donated proceeds from the event to charities benefitting wounded troops. Last fall, he made a similar request to CNN, boasting that his candidacy drove up commercial profits from the debates and requested the cable network donate some of that revenue to veterans charities.
Last August, in the first GOP debate of the election season, Trump bristled after Kelly asked him about past misogynistic comments. In the days that followed, Trump suggested that Kelly was angry because of hormonal problems.
Fox officials have said the will not reconsider Kelly’s role as moderator, calling her “an excellent journalist” and the right person for the job.
Trump has had several missteps with veterans issues since launching his campaign.
Last summer, he received heavy criticism for mocking the military service of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., because he was captured in Vietnam and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war.
In September, he received an endorsement from the group Veterans for a Strong America at a California rally, support that Trump called a reflection of millions of veterans backing his campaign. Subsequent investigations of the group found few members and questionable fundraising in its past.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.