Fox News cancels GOP debate after Trump and Kasich back out
© Getty Images

Fox News is canceling next week's Republican presidential debate in Salt Lake City, Utah, after front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE publicly backed out early Wednesday, followed by John Kasich.

ADVERTISEMENT
"Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE has expressed a willingness to debate Trump or Kasich – or both. But obviously, there needs to be more than one participant," Fox executive vice president Michael Clemente said in a statement.

Trump announced early Wednesday that he would not show up for the debate, saying there have been "enough" debates and noting he'd be speaking at a pro-Jewish rally on Monday.

Instead of appearing at the debate, Trump said he would be making a "major speech" at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, he announced Wednesday on "Fox and Friends."

"I thought the last debate on CNN was the last debate, that was going to be it. Nobody told me there were going to be more debates," Trump said. "I think we've had enough debates."

The Salt Lake City debate was added to the primary schedule in February, and slated to take pace after a dozen high-profile debates that have featured slugfests among candidates and been ratings blockbusters.

After Trump signaled that he wouldn't be appearing, Kasich followed suit, suggesting, however, that the businessman could still change his mind to face off against Kasich and Cruz.

Kasich strategist John Weaver tweeted earlier Wednesday, "No debate in SLC Monday due to Trump backing out. No surprise Trump avoiding contrast. Utah: @JohnKasich headed your way Fri."

Fox noted that the RNC's offer to the cable channel to host the debate was contingent upon "enough candidates actively campaigning." But Clemente acknowledged in the statement only one candidate would have been on stage.

"This morning, Donald Trump announced he would not be participating in the debate. Shortly afterward, John Kasich's campaign announced that without Trump at the debate, Kasich would not participate."

A representative with the Republican National Committee did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill.

Read the full statement from Clemente:

"On Feb. 20, the Republican National Committee announced that a GOP presidential primary debate would be held on March 21 in Salt Lake City. They offered that debate to Fox News Channel to host, provided there were enough candidates actively campaigning. This morning, Donald Trump announced he would not be participating in the debate. Shortly afterward, John Kasich's campaign announced that without Trump at the debate, Kasich would not participate. Ted Cruz has expressed a willingness to debate Trump or Kasich -- or both. But obviously, there needs to be more than one participant. So the Salt Lake City debate is cancelled."

--This report was updated at 2:12 p.m.