'The elephant not in the room'

That’s how Fox News host Megyn Kelly referred to Trump, whose absence overshadowed the Republican debate

Washington: Donald Trump was “the elephant not in the room” as Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly put it, yet the absentee Republican presidential frontrunner holding a rival event overshadowed the party debate before the first nominating contests on Febryary 1.

Donald Trump speaks to veterans at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Pic/AFP
Donald Trump speaks to veterans at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Pic/AFP

The first question Kelly posed at Thursday night’s debate to Ted Cruz, his nearest rival in Iowa four days before the state kicks off the presidential race, was about the real estate mogul. “Let me say, I’m a maniac,” said the Texas senator channelling Trump’s barbs. “And everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly and Ben (Carson), you’re a terrible surgeon. Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way...”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said the 2016 presidential campaign is “not about Donald Trump”.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush joked that he wished Trump was there. He appeared to take a swipe at his rivals on stage for not taking on Trump as aggressively as he has. “I kind of miss Donald Trump. He was a little teddy bear to me,” Bush said. “Everybody else was in the witness protection programme when I went after him.”

In an interview, Trump claimed Fox News “apologized” to him. Trump said while the network had “been excellent, they’ve been very nice”, as it tried to woo him back into attending the debate, “it’s too late”.

A Fox News spokesperson acknowledged Roger Ailes, the network’s chief executive, had “three conversations” with Trump on Thursday. Trump, he said, offered to appear at the debate upon the condition that Fox News contribute $5 million to his charities, but Fox News declined.

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