(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.
I wonder if Trump will yell you're fired?
Later, Perry also declined to attend stating that he was "holding out" for a debate hosted by Jerry Springer.
Donald Trump is a lowlife and an idiot. His racist attempt to question our president's citizenship while he is married to an illegal immigrant and to question our president's economical policies when he has bankrupted several organizations shows that he is a total dirt bag.
Ron Paul continues to earn my respect.
Paul continues to demonstrate he is the only adult in the GOP field, the only one that stands by his positions and the only one with integrity. Obviously he won't be the nominee.
@ AlaskaPalin: Why don't we just give up now & let Big Brother take care of us. Is this what the right wing is about?
Why would anyone debate Trump? He had his chance and he said no. That's it. He is not a candidate.
Trump is a joke! However, given the nature of the GOP debates this new low is just par for the course and is not unexpected.
Ron Paul isn't that crazy after all (although his ideas are out of step with political and economic reality), he is right to reject a Donald Trump debate. John Huntsman has followed suit and so should the other candidates. Anyone who is dumb enough to show up at that absurd debate should be summarily removed from all consideration for the 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination. Donald Trump made a mockery of the political process of running for president and also insulted the intelligence of the American public by fraudulently claiming to run for president and not actually doing it. He wasted people's time and money. He made a fool of Republican leaders who thought he was running. This debate is a joke and another attempt to make fools out of and mock the Republican establishment.
Trumps " Hit " show is a meaningless distraction. He actually thinks that gives him credibility. What this county needs more...is less Trump. He couldnt just announce that they were not attending...he had to bad mouth like a baby girl.
I agree...good that they are not attending.
You better believe that wh0re Romney will attend.
Why does anybody care what Trump thinks or says? Might as well have Snookie as a moderator. This is a shameful event and I'm glad at least 2 candidates have the dignity to opt out.
The fact that Trump immediately hyped his own poll numbers shows you he can't be taken seriously and what moderator attacks the candidate?
Question for The Donald.........How does one file as many executive bankruptcies as you and still get to claim to be a millionaire/billionaire the day after the filing?! Now, moderate a debate, you phony!!!
Poor Trump; living a perpetual mid-life crisis.
Who the heck would want trump choosing our president, and you can bet he already has some highly biased opinions. I hoe the ones that attend become the laughing stock of the nation.
Trump – lol, what a joke... Major kudos to both Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman!
Three cheers for Ron Paul. NO candidate should participate in that debate!
I agree with Dr. Paul and Mr. Huntsman's decisions not to attend. Donald Trump is an embarrassing fad; I'm embarrassed that I even have to mention him in this.
However, I am absolutely BAFFLED at how the mainstream media and society in general are dismissing the only two moral people in the field of Republican nominees. Ron Paul and John Huntsman are the only acceptable candidates. Mitt Romney is just... there. He represents the status quo. The rest of the candidates are laughable puppets. If you disagree with this, then you don't have an accurate understanding of politics.
This will show once and for all that this campaign is a clown show.
Donald Trump, what a blowhard. Why anybody gives him the time of day I will never know. I am sure that his poll numbers were fantastic though with is self financed poll. Would any of his subordinates tell him that he sucks? I don't think so. Cudo's to anyone who does not show up for his debate. They have my vote.
Trump just further trivializes an already trivial party.
That all s any way ,you Republican that are running are the Clown and now Donald Trump will bring the Circus In. What a Joke this becoming.
Trump is just mad that he is getting the cold shoulder. Listen to him brag about his "high poll numbers"--yet he doesn't have the guts to run for office. Trump is a big joke!
A debate moderated by Trump? Just one more proof of what a circus the Republican primaries have turned out to be.
Although I don't agree with them on a lot of issues, Paul and Huntsman are the only candidates with serious ideas. And their character is head and shoulders above Gingrich....
It's really sad how entertainment and politics are getting mixed up. Donald Trump debate? This actually shows Ron Paul as the most grown up candidate. I'm too right wing for Huntsman.