SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH–Fox News announced on Wednesday that next week’s Republican debate in Salt Lake City is canceled, due to the sudden dropouts from several candidates.
Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he could not attend the debate, naming prior obligations to speak “in front of an important group of people.” Following the announcement, contenders John Kasich and Ted Cruz also dropped out.
Trump told “Fox and Friends” during a phone interview that he was “was very surprised when I heard that Fox called for a debate.”
“I think we have had enough debates,” he said. “We have had 11 or 12 debates. I did really well on the last one. I think I have done well in all the debates…But I think we’ve had enough. How many times can the same people ask you the same question?”
“Nobody told me about it,” he added. “And I won’t be there, no.”
Instead, Trump said, “I’m making a very major speech in front of a very important group of people,” but did not include any further details regarding the event. However, when pressed to disclose details, the candidate confirmed that it was the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is holding its annual policy conference from Mar. 20-22 in Washington, D.C. AIPAC announced last week that Trump would be participating in the event, along with other politicians like Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.
On Wednesday, Kasich joined Trump in declining the debate offering, but said that he would participate if the front-runner changed his mind.
“Donald Trump’s decision to scuttle the Salt Lake City debate is disappointing, but not surprising. His values are out of step with the people of Utah,” John Weaver, Kasich’s chief campaign strategist, said in a statement. “We had hoped to contrast Governor Kasich’s positive inclusive approach to problem solving with Trump’s campaign of division. If he changes his mind, we will be there.”
A reliable source close to the Cruz campaign told CBS News’ Major Garrett that Cruz also decided to back out of the forum, saying the Texas senator was “not interested” in debating.
This adds to the list of debates that Trump has opted out of. In January, the Trump chose to host a fundraiser for veterans in Iowa instead of attending a Fox News debate. Trump later cited his ongoing feud with the network and Megan Kelly as factors that played into his decision.
The Fox News debate, approved by the Republican National Committee, was scheduled for Mar. 21 in Salt Lake City, Utah.