Republican presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump's first fundraising email had 60 percent spam rate Trump, Clinton fundraising off Brexit vote UK vote triggers talks with US MORE on Wednesday night lashed out at Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly in his first appearance on the network since he announced plans to boycott the next GOP debate.
He also refused to reconsider his decision to sit out the network’s Thursday night debate — the last before the Iowa caucuses in five days — and said he’d move forward with his own competing event to raise money for wounded veterans.
Speaking on “The O’Reilly Factor,” Trump continued his long-running feud with Kelly, who he has been criticizing ever since she challenged him on his derision of women at the first GOP debate, in August.
“I have zero respect for Megyn Kelly,” Trump said. “I don’t think she’s good at what she does and I think she’s highly overrated. And, frankly, she’s a moderator; I thought her question last time was ridiculous.”
Kelly is also set to moderate Thursday night’s debate on Fox News.
Trump is instead holding his own event in Des Moines at the same time as the debate that he says will raise money for wounded veterans.
In the contentious interview with O’Reilly, Trump rebuffed the anchor’s attempts to convince him that he’s making a grave error by skipping the debate.
“I believe personally that you want to improve the country,” O’Reilly said. “By doing this, you miss the opportunity to convince others ... that is true.
“You have in this debate format the upper hand — you have 60 seconds off the top to tell the moderator, ‘You’re a pinhead, you’re off the mark and here’s what I want to say’. By walking away from it, you lose the opportunity to persuade people you are a strong leader.”
But O’Reilly’s pitch fell flat with Trump. The GOP front-runner dug in his heels, insisting he intended to retaliate against the network by depriving them of ratings.
“Fox was going to make a fortune off this debate,” Trump said. “Now they’re going to make much less.”
O’Reilly said he was merely trying to convince Trump that his approach “is wrong because it’s better for people to see you in the debate format.”
He gave the example from 2012, when a CNN debate moderator in South Carolina asked former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) an embarrassing question about allegations he had an open marriage.
Gingrich shut the moderator down and went on to win the South Carolina primary, O’Reilly noted.
“That’s the kind of guy you are,” O’Reilly said. “You stick it to them and let them have it.”
Responded Trump: “Newt is a friend of mine, and I thought it was an unfair question. But equally unfair was the question Megyn Kelly asked me.”
O’Reilly then sought to appeal to Trump’s capacity to forgive, reminding the billionaire businessman that he’s a Christian, even if he doesn’t attend church all that often, and that the Bible says to “turn the other cheek.”
Trump shot back, saying he’s a regular churchgoer and that the Bible also says “an eye for an eye.”
“You could look at it that way, too,” Trump said.
O’Reilly accused Trump of being “petty” and said he was allowing things that are out of his control to have outsize influence over his decisionmaking.
“I don’t like being taken advantage of,” Trump said. “In this case I was being taken advantage of by Fox. I don’t like that. Now when I’m representing the country, if I win, I’m not going to let our country be taken advantage of. ... It’s a personality trait, but I don’t think it’s a bad personality trait.”
O’Reilly ended the interview asking Trump to reconsider showing up Thursday night. Trump said the two had agreed beforehand that O’Reilly not ask that question.
“I told you up front don’t ask me that question because it’s an embarrassing question for you and I don’t want to embarrass you,” he said.
Updated at 9:17 p.m.