Trump Withdraws as Debate Moderator, Weighs Independent Run

Donald Trump (Photo: Getty Images)

Donald Trump has withdrawn from a proposed televised Republican debate that he would have moderated in Des Moines, Iowa, two days after Christmas.

In a statement he released on Tuesday — which you can read in full here on the Time magazine Web site — Trump acknowledged concerns voiced by some prominent Republicans, including some of the candidates and other party leaders, that he shouldn’t be moderating a debate if there is still some chance that he himself will announce he’s running for president.

The reason this concerns them is this: Though Trump announced earlier this year that he had decided not to run for President as a Republican, he has begun more recently to hold out the possibility, however vaguely, that he might make a run as an Independent, something he would announce after the conclusion of the upcoming season of “The Apprentice” on NBC ends in May.

“I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate,” Trump’s statement said. “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 debate has been plagued by several factors ever since it was announced a few weeks ago. Not only did some of the candidates make statements criticizing the choice of Trump as moderator (the New York Post rounds them up here), but only two of them said they would participate — frontrunner Newt Gingrich and also-ran Rick Santorum.

The debate was being organized by Newsmax — the conservative news organization that operates a popular news Web site ( and a monthly print magazine. Newsmax was arranging the debate in concert with ION Television, the TV network on which the debate would air.

Newsmax posted its own story on Trump’s withdrawal here, but the question of whether the news organization will try and go ahead with the debate, with a new moderator, was left unanswered.

Meanwhile, Trump was a grump when he appeared Monday night on “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel. The Donald apparently took issue with Bill O’Reilly’s line of questioning. Watch what happened here on the Fox News Web site.

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