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Donald Trump to skip Fox debate after consulting Twitter

Republican front-runner polls Twitter followers after lobbying to have Fox News host Megyn Kelly removed as a debate moderator.

Republican presidential candidate withdraws from Fox News debate, citing bias by Fox News host and debate moderator Megyn Kelly.
© Porter Gifford/Corbis

After seeking the advice of his Twitter followers, Donald Trump has decided not to participate in Thursday's presidential debate between Republican candidates in Des Moines, Iowa, following a row with debate host Fox News.

The Republican front-runner's campaign announced his decision to back out Tuesday night after complaining of bias against him by Fox News host Megyn Kelly, one of the three moderators for the event. Trump's decision comes just days before the key Iowa caucuses, where polls show a close race between he and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for the nomination.

"Mr. Trump knows a bad deal when he sees one. Fox News is making tens of millions of dollars on debates and setting record ratings (the highest in history), where as in previous years they were low-rated afterthoughts," the campaign said in a statement." Unlike the very stupid, highly incompetent people running our country into the ground, Mr. Trump knows when to walk away."

Trump has for days lobbied to have Kelly removed as a moderator, citing an unspecified "conflict of interest" in a tweet January 23. The acrimony appears to have begun during the first Republican debate in August, when Kelly asked Trump about degrading comments the candidate had made about women.

"You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' 'slobs' and 'disgusting animals,'" Kelly said during the first debate before Trump interrupted her question with, "Only Rosie O'Donnell."

During a post-debate interview with CNN's Don Lemon, Trump ripped Kelly, calling her "highly overrated."

"She gets out and starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions," Trump told Lemon. "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her -- wherever."

Trump, who had previously suggested he might skip the debate if Kelly wasn't removed, on Tuesday took to his 5.8 million Twitter followers for their advice on whether he should participate in Thursday's debate.

But apparently he didn't like their advice. Despite a clear majority of those taking the poll indicating they would like Trump to participate in the debate, the real estate magnate withdrew anyway.

Calling the withdrawal "unprecedented," Fox News said Trump would still be allowed to participate in the debate, but that he not would not be allowed to "dictate the moderators or the questions."

"Capitulating to politicians' ultimatums about a debate moderator violates all journalistic standards," Fox said in a statement.

Trump representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This isn't the first time Trump has vowed to skip a presidential debate. Trump threatened to boycott the December 15 debate hosted by CNN in Las Vegas if the network didn't pay him $5 million for his appearance. CNN said it would never consider such a deal, and Trump participated in the debate anyway.

Updated at 9 p.m. PT with Fox News comment.