"I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate," Trump said in a statement. "I believe this would not only have been the most watched debate, but also the most substantive and interesting debate."
Trump said that he was ending the debate because he did not want to "give up my right to run as an independent candidate," which he claimed the Republican Party was asking him to do if he wanted to moderate the debate. (Trump made waves by very loudly claiming he was considering running as a Republican earlier in the year.)
The announcement came just eleven days after Trump initially said he was partnering with the conservative magazine to host a forum with the remaining Republican presidential candidates. Since then, a majority of those candidates made clear that they would not be turning up, with only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum pledging to appear.
Trump's full statement:
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very concerned that sometime after the final episode of The Apprentice, on May 20th, when the equal time provisions are no longer applicable to me, I will announce my candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an Independent,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. The American people are embarrassed by the gridlock currently taking place in Washington. I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!
I would like to thank Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for having the courage, conviction, and confidence to immediately accept being a part of the Newsmax debate. I believe this would not only have been the most watched debate, but also the most substantive and interesting debate!
See some of the reaction to the announcement on Twitter: