GOP front-runner Donald Trump asserted Thursday that Fox News called him up just hours before he was set to speak at a veterans' event to apologize and request that he join his fellow Republican candidates onstage. But Trump said he couldn't abandon his event, which he said raised more than $5 million.
Trump said during the event in Des Moines, Iowa, that he personally donated $1 million and businessman Carl Icahn donated $500,000. He also said more reporters were present at his event than at the official Republican debate.
"This is the Academy Awards, this is the Academy Awards," Trump said. "We’re told we have more cameras than they do by quite a bit."
Trump offered to appear at the debate if Fox News paid $5 million to Trump’s charities.
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) January 29, 2016
Trump announced earlier this week that he would be boycotting the Iowa debate after an argument with Fox News. He instead held a fundraiser Drake University to benefit veterans' organizations. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, however, said that it did not want the real estate tycoon’s money, and its founder, Paul Rieckoff, condemned the plan as politically calculated.
Trump's fundraising website for veterans was down at the time of the event. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum also joined Trump on stage. Drake University said in a statement that the event was "significantly overticketed by the Trump campaign" and filled to capacity.
And Trump's vet website is down pic.twitter.com/q4DUO7PYv0
— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) January 29, 2016
"Fire code limits occupancy of Sheslow Auditorium to approximately 700 persons. Therefore, based on our understanding of the number of tickets distributed, only a small percentage of ticketholders will be admitted into the auditorium," the statement said.
Just days ahead of the Iowa caucus, Trump continued to maintain a steady lead in the polls. He polled at 32 percent in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was in second with 25 percent and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio polled at 18 percent. All the other candidates polled below 10 percent, as they were hoping Thursday night’s debate would offer them a last-minute boost ahead of the Iowa caucuses Monday.
Trump has been known for his outspoken views and his jabs at other candidates. On the Democratic side of the race, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were almost tied in Iowa, with Clinton polling at 48 percent and Sanders at 45 percent, according to recent poll numbers.