PALM BEACH, Fla., March 16, 2016 — Fox News officials cancelled a Republican debate originally scheduled to take place in Salt Lake City on Monday. The decision was made after Donald Trump announced that he would not attend the debate, followed by the withdrawal of Gov. John Kasich.
“Ted Cruz has expressed a willingness to debate Trump or Kasich — or both,” Fox News Channel’s Michael Clemente said in a statement. “But obviously, there needs to be more than one participant. So the Salt Lake City debate is cancelled.”
In an early morning interview with Fox News, Trump said he believes that there have been enough debates. Kasich announced that he would not participate if Trump was not going to show. Trump claimed a prior engagement at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference.
The debate would have been the 13th of this election cycle for the GOP. Fox News had announced on Monday that it would host the March 21 debate in Salt Lake City, but the debate had been penciled into the calendar in February. The March 21 debate would have come on the eve of the Utah and Arizona Republican primaries and would have been the first presidential debate ever held in Utah.
After Trump made his announcement, some of his rivals questioned his explanation. Dan Senor tweeted out that AIPAC offered Trump multiple opportunities to speak on Sunday and Monday, making room for him to attend the debate. Senor said “he wants to skip debates.”
The New York billionaire skipped a Fox News debate in Iowa in January after complaining he had been mistreated by the network. He has long clashed with anchor Megyn Kelly and revived criticism of her on Tuesday, saying on Twitter she was “crazy” and “unwatchable.”
Wednesday’s announcement marks the first time either party has canceled a presidential debate. Trump’s participation in the debates has helped networks draw record audiences. Two GOP debates hosted by Fox News attracted the two largest U.S. audiences for non-sports cable TV programs in history. Some 24 million Americans tuned in for the first Republican presidential debate in August, while another in Detroit earlier this month attracted 16.9 million viewers.