An upcoming Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News was canceled Wednesday after contenders Donald Trump and John Kasich backed out, according to the Associated Press.
Kasich said he would join the debate only with the participation of Trump, who on Wednesday morning said he would skip the Monday debate because he already had plans to deliver a “very major speech.”
“I’m making a very major speech in front of a very important group of people,” he said on “Fox & Friends,” later confirming that the remarks will be delivered before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Trump said his speech at the powerful lobbying group’s conference in Washington “was scheduled a while ago.”
All presidential candidates of both parties were invited to speak at the group’s multi-day conference, though so far the only other contender on AIPAC’s list of speakers is Democrat Hillary Clinton.
After Trump and Kasich made their announcements, the host of the debate, the Salt Palace Convention Center, said it was informed that the Salt Lake City event was canceled, spokeswoman Karen Boe told AP.
The debate would have been the 13th Republican debate of this election cycle; at the first, in August, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly opened by questioning Trump about disparaging remarks he has made about women — sparking a feud that has simmered for seven months.
In January, Trump skipped a Fox debate in Des Moines, a move he later said may have contributed to his second-place finish in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
“I think some people were disappointed that I didn’t go,” Trump said in early February.
He participated in a debate earlier this month in Detroit and avoided any confrontations with Kelly, though he has continued to disparage her since then.
After Trump told Fox that he wouldn’t come to its next debate, some immediately cast doubt on his explanation, suggesting that a group such as AIPAC would allow a leading presidential candidate multiple opportunities to speak before its members.