(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 Paul and Huntsman....At least they seem to understand that a presidential candidate isn't projecting the best image when bending over for a windbag oligarch.
When is the media going to stop saying 'how high' when Trump says 'jump!'? And although I respect Ron Paul for his tenacity over the years, there's another candidate being completely ignored, Gary Johnson. Perhaps its time to put together a real debate or seminar with the sane people in the race, now that the side shows are dying down?
Please, someone, stick a sock in t'Rump.
It's good that Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman won't be at the debate wasting valuable time from candidates who might actually be electable. Neither Paul nor Huntsman have any chance of winning. While they are at least pushing the debate on certain issues, Ron Paul is a cartoon character, and Huntsman spent too much time doing "quiet diplomacy" where he didn't push the envelope or make the hard decisions. Bachmann, while good to push the debate but she has no chance of even getting close to winning at this point.
It's time for the serious contenders to be involved. Gingrich, Romney, and Perry need to be having a serious discussion, and need to show the United States why one of them should be the nominee. Perry, although low in the poll numbers is included because he's sitting on a pile of campaign cash.
I agree with everyone here in that Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman made the smart choice in not participating with what will turn in a circus act with Trump being the clown in the center of it all. As for my vote it will go to Ron Paul as he seems to be the one that is the most logical of the field and has for years told people that the situation we are in now would happen if we didn't change the way things were being done. As for the other two "front runners".. they are to easily persuaded and will change their stance of the issues if it means getting a vote. That is not a characteristic that I look for in a candidate and future president of the United States.
Republicans, help me out here...explain to me how this is not a joke?
Hey Trump,get a decent hairpiece,you're nothing but a washedup,political hack,like that big blow hard Fuss Limbaugh...You're like another hack Ralph Nader,like locust,only comes out so many years to act like an ass in public,then slips in his hole to hibernate....Give up,your shows SUCKS,and you're a BOAR....
one other thing...
"when I decided not to run, due to the equal time provisions concerning my hit show The Apprentice".
So he dropped out of running for the Presidency because it was clashing with his reality show?
So...helping shape the future of my country was some whim you were toying with, like buying a new property.
A pathetic joke. I'd spit in the man's face if he were in front of me.
dang, what a burn for mr. trump. now let's take care of this once great nation.
You finally got a candidate that just might have what it takes to really turn things around and we do we do as nation? Watch a bunch of Republican blowhards who have few original ideas to make solid change. You have to work with the opposite and offer alternatives AND persuade others to see your point of view. None of the current Republicans has this gift except one: Jon Huntsman. He deserves consideration.
AlaskaP–Thank you for pointing out that Capitalism is not Cannibalism. Edible voters should vote Republican. They should be sure to bring Ketchup to the voting booth.
Ron Paul is smart and disciplined.
Donald Duck may be good for the economy with a job in finance but he has no international savvy. Plus his ego would fill the room and not let any other of the foreign leaders' egos fit in the room. It would always be about himself. He should stop bashing candidates with real ideas for the future. RON PAUL 2012 !!!! for real change. Newt is a good ole boy – Washington insider.
Ron Paul is such a Statesman, I can see why he wouldn't give credence to that egotystical jerk's entertainment TV sharade. Thank you Ron Paul for having so much good sense. Trump is the clown!
Its funny. seriously. RON PAUL and HUNTSMAN are the only candidates we should be considering. And their refusal to show up to the "'Presidential Apprentice"' proves they are the only two to take seriously. I suggest all repub candidates decline Trump as the host and put someone who takes live serious and not play it as a game of monopoly.
Is it not laughable that Donald "the rug head" Trump is calling Dr Ron Paul a clown. Trump is a phoney and it won't be long before his bubble bursts. WATCH.
Say Ollie, IS TRUMP CAMPAIGNING FOR THAT AMBASSADORSHIP TO IRAQ?
Perhaps Stanley, but I really think that he simply likes to see the light shine on his head.
Most Americans don't give a rat A$$%% about Mr Rug Head Trump. He is full of trump.
Why did Trump slam Huntsman? Huntsman has made it clear from day one that he is not interested in Iowa because he opposes the ethanol subsidies. BTW, I am pulling for Huntsman, BUT I think the *good* thing about Trump's involvement is that it will of course bring it a lot of publicity and viewers, which is what these guys should be after.
Trump is right on.
Trump is a true megalomaniac who should be laughed off any stage. Only a desperate moron would participate in any debate "moderated" by this pathetic clown.
Good. Ron Paul shows some class. What the hell is Donald Trump doing hosting a presedential debate. What a joke. Respect to Dr. ron Paul for avoiding this joke.
Trump is irrelevant to anyone except himself. Everyone should boycott this sham "debate".
Paul is right about Trump, but Trump is also right about Paul – he's not electable. However, Trump saying these things makes him look like a baby. Essentially acting like he didn't want them to come in the first place doesn't work when you invited them, Donny!
It is always a delicious irony to hear Trump talk about other people as 'clowns'. You could be forgiven for thinking that Trump has actually given a new meaning to the word 'clown'.
I tend to agree with you ..