Trump decides he won't debate Bernie Sanders
© Getty Images

Donald TrumpDonald TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE on Friday said it would be “inappropriate” to hold a debate with Bernie SandersBernie SandersStudy: Early unemployment cutoff would cost 16M people 0B Machine Gun Kelly reveals how Bernie Sanders aided him in his relationship with Megan Fox Overnight Health Care: CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 | House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill | Panel blasts COVID-19 response MORE, throwing cold water on an idea that had captivated the political world in recent days. 

"As much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders — and it would be an easy payday — I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton to speak at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders summit More than half of eligible Latinos voted in 2020, setting record Fox News signs Trey Gowdy, Dan Bongino for new shows MORE, or whoever it may be," Trump said in a statement. 


The presumptive GOP presidential nominee added that it "seems inappropriate" to debate the "second place finisher." 

Trump had said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Wednesday night that he would be willing to debate Sanders if the proceeds would go to charity. 

“Yes, I am,” Trump said. "How much is he going to pay me? If he paid a nice sum toward a charity, I’d love to do that.”

Trump added to the speculation throughout the week, telling reporters Thursday he would "love to debate Bernie." 

“If we can raise for maybe women's health issues or something — if we can raise $10- or $15 million for charity, which would be a very appropriate amount. I understand the television business very well," Trump said Thursday.

But the businessman backtracked Friday, saying the debate would let networks "make a killing" on the event without donating to charitable causes. 

The Sanders campaign said in a statement shortly before Trump’s that they had received offers from at least two television networks.

"We look forward to a substantive debate that will contrast the very different visions that Sen. Sanders and Mr. Trump have for the future of our country,” the statement said.

After hearing the news that Trump had backed away, Sanders said he hopes the billionaire changes his mind and asked: “Well Mr. Trump, what are you afraid of?”

And in a second statement, Sanders hit Trump for flip-flopping on the subject and touted matchup polling between the two.

“There is a reason why in virtually every national and statewide poll I am defeating Donald Trump, sometimes by very large margins and almost always by far larger margins than Secretary Clinton. There is a reason for that reality and the American people should be able to see it up front in a good debate and a clash of ideas," the statement read.

Sanders and his aides pushed hard for the debate, hoping to extend his spot in the limelight. Sanders trails Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential race, but has vowed to stay in the race until the Democratic convention this summer.

A debate in California would also provide free advertising to Sanders in the biggest primary on the calendar. 

- Updated at 5:50 p.m.