(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.
Thanks Donald! The laughing stock will once again display his brilliance and drive another nail into the coffin of the Republicans. "Your kidding, right"? is the first question for the Republicans.
You guys said all the things that I was going to say about Trump and 2 republican candidates Newt and Rommey.
It is about time the media start to dig into TRUMP illegal activities and expose this fraud
This proves it. The Republicans are only interested in being reality tv stars. This whole group of nut jobs should be at least smart enough to say no to the political death that the Chump is selling.
Just remember the look on carnival barker Trump's face as our great President Obama pimp slapped him at that dinner. Teabaggers spit on the history and dignity of the Presdidency daily.
Give the Stupid people who love the Donald more Bread and Circus.
Dr. Ron Paul is the only electable one.
TRump's response demonstrates Paul's point. A moderator is supposed to be an partial observer. Trump greets their remarks by dismissing Paul and HBuntsman as candidates. How could they have been treated fairly by TRump if they had participated? Those who are participating in that debate best reconsider.
Trump calling Ron Paul a clown? Ask the many investors Trump burned in multiple bankrupsy filings who they feel the clown is? So all he has is Haircut Mitt, Tawdry Newt and Silly B showing up? Now that's the real laugh indeed.
Maybe this is the pilot for a new reality series? "Donald Trump Presents: Clowns of the GOP"?
This is great, nut job interviewing nut jobs... minus HERman Cain't. It would be funny if he fired them all!
Heartening that two men who actually represent much of what's right about this country would refuse to play with a buffoon who represents so much of what is wrong with it.
Trump will probably spend his debate looking for the Obama birth certificate. Talk about a joke.
Having Trump be the moderator is akin to having Kim Kardashian as the moderator!
I'm with Ron Paul on this one!
The insanity continues. Thanks to Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul for skipping The Show and concentrating on the nations problems, while Newt, Mitt, Rick, et al, line up on their knees to service Trump's ego. How pathetic. They only want his endorsement in the form of money. The only advice of Trumps worth listening to is how to file bankruptcy and come out a multi-millionier.
yea that perception was around 4 years ago. "they live" to push that idea that Paul isnt a serious candidate. But if you actually listen and think then that might change. The president doesnt just dictact his views and ideas and thats that.
I predict the Democrats will gain seats in the house ECT. SO you need a President who can have everyone work together and get things done., Newt Perry or Mitt will get that done? Not as likely as Paul or Huntsman .
Trump is a self-promoting dink and is only going to tryy and make the tards like Perry look better with softballs.
The only thing I ever like about Republicans is that they aren't Democrats. Ron Paul has changed that. He has enough sense to stay out of this debate and as president he'll have enough sense to stay out of any new Iraqs.
Hey Guys. We elected a Hollywood star to run this county (Reagan) and he did a pretty good job. We also elected a community organizer to run the country. So why can't Trump go for it?
By now people should know that Trump is a fraud he also strike me as being dumb
It is wildly inappropriate Congressman Paul, and thank you for saying so. What are we going to see, the candidates judging a swimsuit contest, perhaps? How far is the Republican Party going to be allowed to be dragged into this cesspool before someone has the decency to stand up and say enough? I guess I answered that. Ron Paul did.
Trump went bankrupt corporately twice fleecing his bond holders to his own gain....Yeah he is a beacon of integrity..
The Republicans sure know how to lose an election, don't they?
Trump is a scheming liar. The only reason he's out of the run is because he doesn't want his dirty dealings exposed. Trump violated all kinds of laws when his Dad, Fred bought $3M worth of his Casino chips back in '92 to prop him up when he was on the verge of collapse. And that's just the tip of the iceberg...
The only 2 decent GOP candidates blow Trump off.
Trump should run on a treadmill, not run a debate
Paul a "clown-like" candidate? Why? Because he tells you the truth and he believes in the foundation for the government? Trump is more clown-like than any of them, look at his ridiculous hair and his huge embarrassment after he championed the Obama birth certificate scandal.