Trump Says Skipping Fox News Debate "Could" Have Hurt Him in Iowa
"I probably would have done a little better in Iowa had I not gone out and done that event for the vets," said Trump while making an appearance Tuesday night on the network's 'Hannity' show.
Donald Trump has admitted that his choice to skip the Fox News-hosted GOP debate could have contributed to his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses Monday night.
"I think it could have been the debate," Trump, who finished second behind Ted Cruz, said during a news conference in Milford, N.H., on Tuesday. "I think some people were disappointed I didn't go in the debate."
Still, when asked by a reporter if he wished he could go back and attend the Jan. 28 Republican primary debate, Trump stuck by his decision.
"If I had to do it again," he said, "I would do the exact same thing and the reason is, do you know why? Because I raised $6 million for the vets in one hour. So if I took a second place instead of a first place and could give the vets $6 million, I'll do that all day long."
He also questioned why Marco Rubio was hailed as "surging" for his third-place finish.
"People didn't talk about my second place [finish]," he said. "They didn't talk about it as positively as they should have."
The Republican frontrunner withdrew from the Jan. 28 debate after a public feud with Fox News and its anchor Megyn Kelly. Trump instead held a fundraiser for wounded veterans during the time of the debate. Despite his absence, Fox News' debate coverage earned 12.5 million viewers.
Later on Tuesday night, a stern-faced Trump appeared on Fox News' political show Hannity, where he confirmed to host Sean Hannity that he is ready to move forward with the network.
When prompted by Hannity, saying, "Everything now is good with Fox from your end," Trump replied, "That's true."
Trump then appeared to let down his guard as talk turned to Iowa, again bringing up the GOP debate and the response to Rubio's third-place finish compared to his second. "I think I probably would have done a little better in Iowa had I not gone out and done that event for the vets," he told the host. "Some people thought that not doing the debate might have been a positive for my opponents."
However, Trump said he was "really happy" about the money that he raised for veterans from his fundraiser and remained proud of his performance in Iowa.
Saying that he feels he deserves "a little credit" for second place, Trump said he "spent less than just about anyone else" and that the response to Rubio was much more positive. "Marco Rubio came in third," he said. "I was over 2,000 votes more, which is a lot. Everybody said it was his evening — they actually called him the winner."
Feb. 2, 9:35 p.m. Updated with Trump's Hannity appearance