After most of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates refused to attend a Newsmax-sponsored debate moderated by businessman/reality TV impresario Donald Trump, the Donald himself announced Wednesday that he would step aside from his role in the event.
"I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate," Trump said, according to Fox News.
Since Newsmax announced that Trump would moderate the Dec. 27th debate in Iowa earlier this month, the conservative magazine has struggled to convince candidates to show up. A spokesman for Texas Rep. Ron Paul said that the circus-like atmosphere of the event was "beneath the office of the Presidency" and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's spokesman said he was looking "forward to watching Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich suck up to Trump with a big bowl of popcorn." Even Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has met with Trump on several occasions, declined. In the end, only two candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, accepted the invitation to join.
Trump injected himself into the Republican primary process last spring, when he led a campaign to pressure President Barack Obama to release a second form of his birth certificate from his native Hawaii. Trump hinted at the time that he was considering joining the Republican presidential race, and he still says that he's leaving the door open to run as an independent.
In a statement to Politico, Trump said he was dropping from the debate so that it wouldn't appear as a conflict of interest if he decides to run as an independent:
The Republican Party candidates are very concerned that sometime after the final episode of The Apprentice, on May 20th, when the equal time provisions are no longer applicable to me, I will announce my candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an Independent, they will not agree to attend or be a part of the Newsmax debate scheduled for December 27, 2011. It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate. Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate.
As for whether the debate will still go on as planned, Eason Jordan, a former CNN news chief who had been hired to produce the debate, told Yahoo News' Dylan Stableford to "stay tuned."
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