(CNN) - At least two Republican presidential hopefuls are declining to participate in a debate moderated by real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman will both skip the debate, citing concerns about the seriousness of the event.
In a campaign statement released Saturday, Paul's campaign called the debate a distraction from the real issues of the campaign.
"The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office's history and dignity," Jesse Benton, Ron Paul's national campaign chairman, said in a statement.
He added, "Mr. Trump's participation as moderator will distract from questions and answers concerning important issues such as the national economy, crushing federal government debt, the role of the federal government, foreign policy, and the like. To be sure, Mr. Trump's participation will contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere."
Benton cited Trump's flirtation with running for president himself as a factor in the decision not to participate in the debate.
"Mr. Trump's selection is also wildly inappropriate because of his record of toying with the serious decision of whether to compete for our nation's highest office, a decision he appeared to make frivolously," Benton said.
Reacting to the Paul campaign's comments, Trump slammed Paul as a non-electable candidate.
"As I said in the past and will reiterate again, Ron Paul has a zero chance of winning either the nomination or the Presidency," Trump said in a statement to CNN. "My poll numbers were substantially higher than any of his poll numbers, at any time, and when I decided not to run, due to the equal time provisions concerning my hit show The Apprentice, I was leading the Republican field."
Trump announced in May he would not seek the nomination.
In his statement, Trump said he was pleased to hear that Paul and Huntsman would be skipping the debate.
"Few people take Ron Paul seriously and many of his views and presentation make him a clown-like candidate," Trump said. "I am glad he and Jon Huntsman, who has inconsequential poll numbers or a chance of winning, will not be attending the debate and wasting the time of the viewers who are trying very hard to make a very important decision."
Huntsman's campaign said Friday the former Utah governor wouldn't be making an appearance at the event.
"We have declined to participate in the 'Presidential Apprentice' Debate with The Donald," Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller said in a statement. "The Republican Party deserves a serious discussion of the issues so voters can choose a leader they trust to defeat President Obama and turn our economy around."
On Friday, the conservative online publication Newsmax announced they were sponsoring the Trump-moderated debate on December 27. It will be held in Des Moines, Iowa, just days before the state holds its first-in-the-nation caucus.
Candidates for the 2012 GOP nomination have been meeting with Trump since this summer. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, businessman Herman Cain and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann have all met with "The Apprentice" host at least once. On Thursday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he would be meeting with Trump on Monday.
good for Ron Paul. trump is a chump and deserves to be treated as such.
Both Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman Jr. refused to attend to this debate. Both are smart men. I would prefer Jon Huntsman Jr. to be President but Dr. No wouldn't be bad.
Who the hell does Trump think he is? People are letting this guy's ego take over the whole damn country. WTH is that?
Ron Paul exposes the Trump debate for the joke that it is.
Paul is right. Trump has no credibility as a journalist or a political figure.this is just Trump trying to stay relevant in the campaign process, he's not!
For once I actually AGREE with Ron Paul. It is a disgrace and a lack of ethics. Trump is nothing more than a side show and I hope the ratings FALL significantly.
AT least the Main media is not sponsoring the event that will in particle and only Trumps positions. Ron Paul you were smart not to attend. What does a Trump know, even in his business he has to file banking, which means he isn't a good business man that he wants you to think. He is not well liked in Palm Beach and his the ratings on his tv show has gone down because the celebrities are all has beens
Donald Trump cares about ONE thing. Donald Trump.
Its funny to me how the only 2 somewhat sane decent guys in this field think this trump idea is as big of a joke as I do. Proves my point once again why these two should be leading the polls... but even if one was the nominee, my vote belongs to Obama. Vote progressive in 2012!
Ron Paul is a nut, but he's 100% right about this.
Trump as moderator is an embarrassment to the nation. Ron Paul is the only sensible candidate.
I think that this will only play into both Dr. Paul and Jon Huntsman's hands. The moderate Repub. voters see this event as ridiculous and as a complete mockery of the Repub. Party.
Good for Dr. Paul and Good for Jon Huntsman.
the only republican candidate with credibility and standards is ron paul.
Boxed thinking! Politically, trump is the man on china and energy independence. capitalism is cannibalized by its socialist employment policies. Workers too should be competing to find and keep jobs just as businesses competes for customers. Those who are able to produce the highest quality, working longest hours at lowest labor cost will contribute greatest to the system. Unionization is strangling capitalism.
Donald Trump the circus clown is making our election into a side show, like the fat lady and the guy with two heads. good for Ron Paul.
This is being put on by Newsmax. It's all for their benefit not the peoples. Paul and Huntsman are doing the right thing.
Get the MSM out of politics and the nwtion may have a chance of survival.
He was right when he predicted the economic collapse, the destruction of currency by the fed, the murder of U.S. citizens without a trial, the consequences of our foreign policy domestically.
How you can call someone who was right about so many things a 'nut' is beyond comprehension.
How ridiculous what a circus, bring on Ron Paul for some sanity
Newt Gingrich is a total disgrace to America. Trump's a joke and so are those agreeing to attend.
The other candidates are going along with it because they are sellouts for the big banks, and corporations.
They don't give a rat's a$$ what the American people want.
This so called debate is an absolute joke, and the participants will be laughing at middle America.
Good for Ron Paul-–Glad to see he's not like the rest of those idiots, waiting for orders from their elitist masters.
Considering just how bad the GOP candidates are this year, the Donald's debate is entirely appropriate. There are sane people in the GOP but they have not been willing to step up and run. I suspect they're too afraid of the Tea Party. The base (primary voters) expect the candidates to be extreme right wingnuts. Anyone who is even a bit moderate like Huntsman just don't get any traction. The once proud GOP is becoming a bad joke.
He is running scared of that debate, it would seem!!!!
NONE of the candidates should be attending this sham. Good for Paul and Huntsman for taking a stand. Our country is falling apart and Donald Trump is moderating a GOP debate. Sign of the times for sure.
Seriously Republicans!?!? Is this what you've reverted to? Is Donald gonig to tell you which one is "fired" after the debate? I don't agree with RP on much but he and Huntsman are right on this...
This election is about PRESIIDENT of the US, not for the amusement of some self agrandizing flake. What an embarrasment the GOP has become...
Agree with the Paul campaign on this 100%. Trump pretends to run for president, drops out, and then screws over organizations that took him seriously. Now he wants to moderate a debate, and endorse a candidate immediately afterwards?
Good job Paul and Huntsman.