Washington: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's feud with a top American news network has intensified just days ahead of the crucial Iowa caucus, as the controversial billionaire announced a rival event against a nationally televised debate he boycotted.
Trump last night refused to reconsider his decision of not attending the face-off on Fox News tonight even as he was being slammed by opponents for his relentless barrage against the network's anchor Megyn Kelly.
The 69-year-old real-estate Mogul's criticism of Kelly has continued in retaliation for the tough questioning she submitted him to in the first Republican debate last summer. Trump announced a rival event to benefit Veteran Organisations in Des Moines exactly at the same time as the debate begins, injecting a sense of chaos into the contest.
In an interview with Fox News, Trump said he would move forward with his own event and would not attend the debate -- the last one before the Iowa Caucus on February 1, which would formally begin the already unconventional presidential race.
"We're going to raise a lot of money for the vets," Trump said at a rally in South Carolina. Trump also continued his criticism of Kelly, who he has accused of bias against him. "I have zero respect for Megyn Kelly. I don't think she's good at what she does and I think she's highly overrated. And frankly, she's a moderator; I thought her question last time was ridiculous," he alleged.
In turn, Fox has shot back accusing Trump of "terrorising" the network after he pulled out of the last televised debate four days before voting begins in presidential primary polls. The network has said it will go ahead with the debate as scheduled. In a testy interview, Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly told Trump: "I submit to you that you need to change and get away from the personal." "I don't like being taken advantage of," Trump said, referring to Fox's refusal to dump Kelly from its panel of moderators. "I'm not going to let our country be taken advantage of."
Trump's gamble has likely paid off as he was again dominating the airwaves and making his rivals and the party squirm, all this while consolidating his lead among voters. The White House, meanwhile, appeared critical of Trump's decision to skip the debate, saying President Barack Obama never backed out of such a debate.
"In (the recent) Politico interview, the President himself noted he was not a big fan of participating in presidential debates, but he never backed out of a debate two days before it was scheduled to be held. I think that demonstrates his own commitment to the process, and making good on one's commitments," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
"We have seen that over last several months that Mr Trump has repeatedly chosen to kick reporters out of the room for asking tough questions. It appears he's taking that approach to a new level by avoiding those questions entirely," he told reporters.