Former US President Donald Trump confirmed on Sunday that he will not attend the first debate of the Republican presidential primary scheduled for Wednesday, or any other scheduled debates.
"The public knows who I am and what a successful presidency I had," Trump posted on his Truth Social social network. "Therefore, I will not attend the debates!" His spokeswoman did not immediately clarify whether the former president plans not to attend all the primary debates or only those that have already been scheduled.
The former president and frontrunner in the Republican primary had said for months that he saw no advantage in joining his GOP rivals on stage when they meet for the first time in Milwaukee on Wednesday, given the commanding lead he has in the race. And he had made it clear to those he had spoken to in recent days that his opinion had not changed.
"Why would I let people who have 1 or 2% and 0% (in popularity) be hitting me with questions all night?" he said in a June interview with Fox News host Bret Baier, who will be the moderator. Trump has also repeatedly criticized Fox, which hosts the Aug. 23 prime-time event, insisting it is a "hostile network" that he believes will not treat him fairly.
Trump has been weighing various options to air a show at the same time as the debate, including giving an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has been hosting a show on the website that used to be called Twitter. Carlson was seen at Trump's golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, before the announcement, according to a person familiar with the visit who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment. The New York Times reported on Saturday that the interview to be broadcast on Wednesday has already been recorded.
“We cannot confirm or deny it; stay tuned,” said Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesman.
The idea had been one of several alternatives that Trump had raised in talks in recent weeks. Among them was the possibility of showing up in Milwaukee at the last minute, or attending but sitting in the audience and offering live commentary on his Truth Social site. He had also talked about calling in different networks to attract debate viewers, or holding a rally instead.
A person familiar with the matter had said hours earlier on Sunday that Trump and his team have not notified the Republican National Committee of their plans.