Donald Trump doesn’t want to debate.
That’s the impression you might get after listening to a Fox News interview with the GOP presidential front-runner on Wednesday, when he announced that he would not attend a Republican primary debate planned for next week. “I think we’ve had enough debates,” Trump said, adding that he would instead be “doing a major speech” for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Fox News subsequently canceled the debate, stating that John Kasich said he would not participate if Trump did not. “Obviously there needs to be more than one participant,” Fox News executive vice president Michael Clemente said in a statement. “So the Salt Lake City debate is canceled.”
It’s the latest incident in Trump’s love-hate relationship with the media, a dynamic where the presidential candidate seems to call the shots more often than not. Trump routinely portrays journalists as vicious, cynical, and all-around out to get him. Yet for all his complaints, Trump has masterfully exploited the media over the course of his campaign, racking up free air time by routinely sucking up all of the oxygen in the race. Major television networks, meanwhile, have been extremely permissive with Trump, frequently allowing him to call in for interviews. The tactic has allowed the candidate to more easily achieve wall-to-wall coverage and steer the conversation in whatever direction he wants to take it.