Donald Trump weighs in on GOP debate controversy

The GOP front-runner discusses his decision to boycott the last debate before the Iowa caucuses on 'The O'Reilly Factor'


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 27, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly, reporting tonight from Los Angeles. Thank you for watching us tonight.

So we have a big story going on as Donald Trump says he will not participate in the Fox News Republican debate tomorrow evening in Iowa.

His reason seems to be Fox News anchor and debate moderator, Megyn Kelly, who Mr. Trump believes is not treating him fairly.

But, candidates often feel that way about journalists and news organizations can't allow any outside person to dictate coverage.

Tonight, I will forego the traditional talking points memo so we can hear from Mr. Trump extensively. But I will say this to begin our reporting. America is not in a good place these days. Almost 70 percent of adults agree with that statement. We need strong leadership to revive the country. Donald Trump is leading in the Republican polling because he is perceived to be a strong leader by many. However, Americans are still taking their measure, Mr. Trump.

Tonight, we will concentrate on issues, not personal stuff. Mr. Trump joins us now from Florida.

So I appreciate your coming on. Most politicians would have dodged this interview, but I have to tell you something, I don't think not showing up at the debate tomorrow night is good for America. Voters are still assessing you. They need to see you in high-profile situations. Or am I wrong?

TRUMP: Well, I think you're wrong because, frankly, when you're mistreated as we were with the Iran deal, that our country should have walked, Secretary Kerry, President Obama should have walked from that deal, you would have made a much better deal.

I was not treated well by Fox. They came out with this ridiculous P.R. statement, it was like drawn up by a child. And there was a taunt. And I said, you know, "How much of this do you take?" I have zero respect for Megyn Kelly. I don't think she's very good at what she does. I think she's highly overrated. And, frankly, she's the moderator.

I thought her question last time was ridiculous. And everybody said ...

O'REILLY: All right, well, wait, wait, wait ...

TRUMP: ...the debate. In fact, everybody said -- well, everybody said, I won all six debates and especially the last one. So, I don't mind debating. In fact, I actually like debating.

O'REILLY: Let's look at it from a broader point of view rather than how you feel. You're running for president. I believe you want to improve the country. I believe that personally, all right, as an American that you want to improve the country.

By doing this, all right, you lose an opportunity to convince others, who may put you into the White House that indeed is true. You have, in this debate format, the upper hand. You have 60 seconds right off the top to tell any of the moderators, "You're a pinhead, your question is unfair and here's why and here's what I want to say."

By walking away from it, you lose an opportunity to persuade people that you are a strong leader. That's my opinion.

TRUMP: Well, I understand your opinion, Bill. But tomorrow night at 9:00 at Drake University, we're going to have a tremendous event and I'll have much more than 60 seconds, frankly. And we're going to raise a lot of money for the veterans. A lot of money is going to be raised. A lot of people are going to be there, and I can do some good.

And frankly, I think that's good ...

O'REILLY: Fox could do that any day.

TRUMP: ...make a fortune on this debate. Now, they're going to make much less.

But I will tell you, Fox would have and still might, I hope they do, I hope they do well, I don't really care. But, Fox is going to make a lot of money on the debate. We broke the all-time record on cable television 24 million people, and yet, in the previous cycle, you were talking about tiny fraction of that.

So, there's a reason for the 24 million people. CNN, likewise, broke its all-time record with 23 million people. I just don't like being used. And when they issued that tweet or whatever it was that Fox issued, I guess it was a press release ...

O'REILLY: Listen, Donald, I got it, I got it.

TRUMP: was like done by children. And, well, I think it was inappropriate.

O'REILLY: But you're elected president, you're going to get a lot more -- look, if you're elected president, you're going to get a lot more than that. All right.

It's a very ...

TRUMP: Well, let me give you -- wait, Bill, let me give you one example. Bill, let me give -- I agree to do this show with you last week.

O'REILLY: Right.

TRUMP: I didn't cancel it.

O'REILLY: Right.

TRUMP: I'm not canceling it ...

O'REILLY: No, and we respect you for that.

TRUMP: Frankly, you're a lot tougher than Megyn Kelly in my opinion ...

O'REILLY: OK, look, it doesn't matter. I'm trying to convince you that your tact is wrong because it's better for the folks to see you in a debate format.

Let me give you another example. Newt Gingrich, four years ago, pretty much on a dime was in a CNN interview, you may remember this, in South Carolina. And he was treated much worse, much worse than you have ever been treated by anybody. Because they brought up that a he said, she said, John King, the moderator, about an ex-wife that was tawdry, disrespectful, should never have been in the debate.

Gingrich knew it was coming, and Gingrich let King and CNN have it. And the result was he won the new -- the South Carolina primary by a lot. And people gained a lot of respect for him.

So, you saw Gingrich tested. And, the folks liked what he did. And I'm telling you, that's the way to go here. If they treated you unfairly, and I don't believe they would, I don't believe the three moderators would treat you unfairly tomorrow night, then you got 60 seconds to let them have it right between you guys. And that's the kind of guy you are. You stand up. You let them have it.

TRUMP: Well, first of all, Newt is a friend of mine. I thought he did great. I thought it was a very unfair question. But equally ...

O'REILLY: That's right.

TRUMP: ...unfair was the question that Megyn Kelly asked me in the last debate.

O'REILLY: Well, I don't think so.

TRUMP: And everybody said I won that debate and I gave a great answer. I mean, believe it or not ...

O'REILLY: OK, so what's the beat (ph)?

TRUMP: ...Rosie O'Donnell was very good for me in that -- the only time Rosie has ever been good for me.

But frankly ...

O'REILLY: All right, well, wait, wait, wait ...

TRUMP: ...I think I gave a great answer. And everybody ...

O'REILLY: But you're making my point. You're making my point. You gained in that. You gained in that, you're making my point.

But I'll tell you what ...

TRUMP: This also had to do with the attitude of Fox.

O'REILLY: All right.

TRUMP: Bill, this also had to do with the stupidity (inaudible) and what they did.

And we're going to -- so we're going to be having a great event tomorrow night and I'm going to raise a lot of money for veterans.

O'REILLY: I got it, I got it.

TRUMP: And that's a good thing. It's a good thing.

O'REILLY: But look, Donald, you can do that any night and I can help you when -- we'll raise five times as much money. I got a really good idea that I want you to be involved with about raising money, but we'll get to that later.

TRUMP: Well, I will do other debates, Bill.

O'REILLY: Look, here's where you're making a mistake though. You're making a big mistake.

TRUMP: You know, can I just say about one thing? Could I just say one thing?

O'REILLY: What? Sure.

TRUMP: We have had six debates so far. Every online ...


TRUMP: ...poll said I won every one of the debates, especially the last one, by the way, with the New York values which was horrible what Ted Cruz said.

But, you know what? The Democrats were all finished with their debates. They've had six. They were hidden behind football games and every other thing. They're all finished with their debates. We're going to go on forever with these debates. At some point, you got to start doing other things other than debating.

We are ...

O'REILLY: All right, I got that.

TRUMP: ...debate like Gilmore (ph), people have never even heard of this man.

Wait a minute, we have people in our debates that, you know, they're at zero.

O'REILLY: That's a sub (ph) debate, not your debate.

TRUMP: It's ...

O'REILLY: You're making two mistakes. Number one, if you get the nomination, you have to win the general election and the more exposure you get under pressure, the better for you.

And number two, if I had been the debate moderator last August, I would ask you about that comment. I wouldn't ask it the same way.

TRUMP: I don't think you would have.

O'REILLY: What you said something about Carly Fiorina. You opened the door for it. And you explained what you meant about Ms. Fiorina.

TRUMP: Excuse me, Bill. You would not have asked that question that way and, by the way, I love ...

O'REILLY: Not that way, but I would ask.

TRUMP: ...and that's why I'm doing your show tonight, Bill. I'm only doing it because I agreed to do it last week otherwise I wouldn't have even done it. But I made a commitment to do your show last week ...

O'REILLY: But, Donald, look, you have to understand, number one, Kelly's question was within journalistic bounds. All right. Number two ...

TRUMP: I disagree.

O'REILLY: OK. And that's good. That's good. You made your case. You won the debate. That's what America is about. Robust debate.

TRUMP: OK, that's fine.

O'REILLY: Don't walk away from it, all right.

TRUMP: Let's talk about something more important. Bill, let's talk about something more important. This is not that important. Let's talk about something more important.

O'REILLY: OK. I got lots of questions for you.

Question number one, and most of these are personal questions in the sense that I want people to know you. I've known you 35 years. All right. They don't know you. But I know you.

TRUMP: Well, OK, that's right.

O'REILLY: You went to church last week. You don't usually go. And you went to church in Iowa.

TRUMP: I do go. I go a lot. What do you mean I don't usually go? I go to church a lot, but not every Sunday.

O'REILLY: Well, you know, I mean, you're a religious protestant. OK.

So, in your Christian faith, there is a very significant tenet and that's the tenet of forgiveness. And I think you should forgive not only journalists who come at you in ways you don't like, but I think you should be the bigger man and say, "You know what, I didn't like it", and you should make that case all day long.

But, I'm not going to take any action against it. You know, don't you think that's the right thing to do?

TRUMP: It probably is. But, you know, it's called an eye for an eye, I guess also you can look at it that way ...

O'REILLY: No, no, no ...


TRUMP: Bill ...

O'REILLY: No, no, no. You are taken as a Christian, the eye for the eye rule goes out. Here's what it is. Turning the other cheek.

TRUMP: Bill, let me tell you, you're taking this much more seriously than I am. I'm not taking this seriously. I'm going to have a wonderful time tomorrow night at 9:00 at Drake University.

O'REILLY: But you're depriving the people of seeing you in a forum they need to see you in.

TRUMP: No. We have a lot of press will be there and everybody. We're going to help a lot of veterans whereas Fox is not giving anything to the veterans. I'm giving 100 percent to the veterans.

O'REILLY: Oh, stop.

TRUMP: I'm going to make a substantial donation.

O'REILLY: And then, look, Fox News has allowed me to raise more than $20 million for veterans who need the track chairs so don't give me that. Now, I'm going to hold you over against your will. All right. All right.

TRUMP: That's OK.

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