Trump skips final GOP debate before caucus to hold event for veterans


Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks in front of a crowd on Jan. 19 at the Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center. Trump talked about economic and healthcare reforms. At the rally he was endorsed by former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

Danielle Ferguson

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump opted out of the final GOP debate before the Iowa caucuses to host his own event at Drake University supporting veterans.

Trump, who is in feud with debate host Fox News because the network refused to remove journalist Megyn Kelly from the moderator list, took the stage and began by saying he “wished he could [have been] five minutes away [at the debate],” but said he needed to “stick up for” himself.

“They keep trying to get me to [go to the debate],” Trump said of Fox News. “I just got a call a few minutes ago, and I said ‘Isn’t it going on right now?”

Trump, the first presidential candidate to refuse to participate in a debate, looked out on a full crowd, informing attendees his event had raised about $5 million for veterans and saying the amount of cameras broadcasting the event was “because of our veterans.”

Trump had just started detailing how people with money are able to gain and keep that money because of the veterans when a group of protesters disrupted the event, to which Trump supporters began repeatedly chanting “Trump.” Another group of protesters resurfaced later in the event, to which Trump responded, “If we got [to talk to] them in a room, they’d be [calm].”

Trump told the crowd he “loved protests” because it’s the “only way” to get the cameras to move to pan the audience.

Whether Trump’s skipping the debate will hurt his standing in the race is unknown, but political commentator Van Jones told CNN that Trump probably received more attention than all other candidates combined.

Presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum joined Trump on the stage shortly after they finished up their own debate, in support of Trump’s event cause.

“I’m going to take advantage of the opportunity to support our vets,” Santorum, who said he purposefully avoided standing in front of Trump’s campaign sign so as not to make it look like he was supporting another candidate, told CNN Thursday night. “When someone says, ‘come and help vets,’ the answer is always yes. In the end, I’m going to do what I think is right.”

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, along with her husband Bill Clinton, and Bernie Sanders each held separate events throughout the state Thursday night, as well.