Trump Confirms He Will Skip 1st GOP Presidential Debate

Former President Donald Trump will not be attending the first of the RNC's presidential debates on the evening of Aug. 23. But there is talk he may appear elsewhere.
Trump Confirms He Will Skip 1st GOP Presidential Debate
Former President Donald Trump leaves the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 12, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

Former President Donald Trump has confirmed he won't be attending the first of the Republican presidential debates, which will be held in Milwaukee on the evening of Aug. 23.

In a post on his social media platform, Truth Social, on Aug. 20, President Trump cited a CBS poll showing his commanding lead in the race as part of his decision to skip the debates.

"New CBS POLL, just out, has me leading the field by 'legendary' numbers. TRUMP 62%, 46 Points above DeSanctimonious (who is crashing like an ailing bird!), Ramaswamy 7%, Pence 5%, Scott 3%, Haley 2%, Sloppy Chris Christie 2%, 'Aida' Hutchinson 1%," he wrote.

"The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had, with Energy Independence, Strong Borders & Military, Biggest EVER Tax & Regulation Cuts, No Inflation, Strongest Economy in History, & much more. I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!"

The Republican 2024 presidential front-runner has for months suggested that he would likely pass on the event, saying it didn't make sense to give the media and others a chance to attack him.

Fox News will be hosting the debate. President Trump has criticized Fox over its recent coverage of him, calling the outlet a "hostile network" that he believes won't treat him fairly.

In a recent interview in June with Fox News host Bret Baier, who will be the moderator for the Aug. 23 debate, President Trump reiterated his thinking: "Why would I allow people at 1 or 2 percent and 0 percent to be hitting me with questions all night?"

He also said earlier this month that he wouldn't sign the loyalty pledge that the Republican National Committee (RNC) requires presidential candidates to sign to participate in the GOP primary debate. The pledge requires candidates to support the eventual Republican presidential nominee in 2024 and to not participate in any non-RNC-sanctioned debate for the remainder of the election cycle. Candidates also must pledge to not run as an independent, write-in candidate, or third-party nominee.

"I wouldn’t sign the pledge," he said in an interview with Newsmax. "Why would I sign a pledge if there are people on there that I wouldn’t have? ... I can name three or four people that I wouldn't support for president. So right there, there's a problem."

President Trump had been considering various options to counter the debates, including sitting down for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. A report from The New York Times on Aug. 19 said the interview, scheduled to air on Aug. 23, had already been recorded.

“We cannot confirm or deny—stay tuned,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum have committed to attending the debate and endorsing the eventual GOP nominee through the RNC pledge. Former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have suggested they will be attending the debate too.

They've all met the fundraising and polling thresholds required to participate in the debates.

President Trump has pushed back on attacks, including from Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Christie, for intending to skip the debates. Mr. Christie accused the former president of lacking “the guts to show up" and said he's “a coward” if he doesn't. A super PAC supporting Mr. DeSantis released an ad in which the narrator says: “We can’t afford a nominee who is too weak to debate."

"It's not a question of guts, it’s a question of intelligence,” President Trump told Newsmax in a recent interview.

Wisconsin, the state where the first Republican debates will be held, is largely a swing state, with four of its past six presidential elections having been decided by less than a percentage point.

President Trump won Wisconsin narrowly in 2016 and lost by a similar margin in 2020.

Wisconsin is among the most competitive states in the presidential elections, along with Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Nevada.

Wisconsin is also where the Republican National Convention will be held in 11 months' time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.