Michele Bachmann is the fifth GOP candidate to turn down an invitation to Newsmax’s Donald Trump-moderated debate, which means the only two candidates scheduled to attend are Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Trump claims that the Republicans are dropping out because they’re too scared to debate him. (As Ed Morrisey wonders, “why would a ‘moderator’ debate the candidates anyway?”) Nevertheless, it’s not even clear whether the debate will actually happen:
In an interview with radio host Don Imus on Friday, Trump said he wasn’t sure if the debate would actually happen. “I don’t know. I have to look into it,” he said, adding, “They really want me to drop my status as a potential person to run as an independent, and, honestly, I don’t think I’m going to do that. I’m not going to drop it.”
Trump berated the candidates who are skipping the debate, telling Imus, “some of them don’t have the courage to do” it. “A couple of them called me and told me, ‘Donald, I’m just too nervous to do it,’” he said.
It’s amazing how this debate went from a major campaign event to a colossal failure in a matter of days. What was Newsmax thinking by bringing Trump on as the moderator in the first place? And why wouldn’t the magazine get rid of him once candidates started dropping out?
It could be because Newsmax has had an extremely close relationship with Trump for quite awhile. Its writers regularly snag interviews with the reality show star, but their stories on him usually read like public relations puff pieces. After Trump’s latest book was released, the Newsmax website actually started promoting the book inside of its glowing Trump articles and book reviews, including lines peppered within the stories that say things like “Editor’s Note: Get Donald Trump’s new book, ‘Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again’ — Go Here Now.” The links direct readers to an Amazon page where they can buy Trump’s book, and Newsmax appears to collect a portion of the sale price.
When you click a link on the Newsmax site to register for the debate, it also takes you directly to a page that also promotes Trump’s book and links to the Amazon site. So if Newsmax has some sort of promotional relationship with Trump, I guess that could explain why it’s sticking by him. But if it does end up going ahead with the Trump-moderated debate, it sounds like it’s going to be an embarrassment for everyone involved.