After getting snubbed by most of the Republican field, real-estate magnate and reality-TV star Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he is pulling out as moderator of a presidential debate scheduled for Dec. 27.
Trump characterized his decision as a response to the candidates’ concerns that he would eventually run for president himself, as an independent, after the final episode of The Apprentice, the show he hosts, airs on May 20. A statement distributed by his lawyer, Michael Cohen, said:
“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!”
Only two of the GOP candidates had agreed to participate in the debate: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Most candidates had cited the potential for Trump getting into the race as a reason for declining the invitation, although there was also concern that the event would degenerate into a sideshow “beneath the office of the presidency,” as candidate Ron Paul of Texas put it.