Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has pulled the plug on a highly anticipated question-and-answer session that had been scheduled for next week with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), the group announced on Friday.
Trump’s decision was “motivated by the concern of being ‘put on trial,’” the organization’s communications director, Ammar Campa-Najjar, said in a statement.
“Mr. Trump was unwilling to abide by the terms and conditions of USHCC’s Presidential Candidate Q&A Series — the same rules that all participants have previously followed,” Campa-Najjar added. Several 2016 candidates, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland have already participated in the series.
Last month, the candidate met in private with the USHCC president Javier Palomarez at Trump Tower in New York City. Afterward, Palomarez said the two respectfully disagreed on several of his positions but that Trump agreed to participate in the Q&A in Washington on Oct. 8.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed to MSNBC that Trump will not attend the event and that, instead, he’ll attend a campaign rally in Nevada. Team Trump suggested Palomarez was more concerned with raising money and his organization’s profile than with issues and policy.
“Mr. Palomarez continues to leverage the national media attention surrounding Mr. Trump to benefit his organization and exploit Mr. Trump to enlist additional support and increase interest and revenue in his coalition including asking Mr. Trump to join his chamber for a fee amounting to between $25,000 and $2 million dollars, which Mr. Trump refused to do. Mr. Trump remains committed to reaching out to the Hispanic Community in more genuine and productive ways as he continues to share his vision to Make America Great Again,” said Hicks.
The billionaire real estate mogul also told CNN earlier in the day that he never agreed to appear at the event. “I never agreed to do an event. This is the first time I’m hearing about this,” Trump said, suggesting organizers wanted him to participate because they wouldn’t be able to sell tickets without him.
Trump, of course, has come under fire following controversial remarks he has made about Hispanic immigrants since announcing his bid for the White House. The candidate has suggested that illegal immigrants are “rapists” and “killers.” He also wants to build a 2,000-mile permanent wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants, put an end to the policy known as birthright citizenship, and methodically arrest and deport more than 11 million illegal immigrants with the hope that the “good ones” will eventually be let back into the country.
Meanwhile, the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed the majority of Hispanics — 67% — have a very negative view of Trump.
Campa-Najjar said Trump’s decision to bow out “only deepens our community’s already negative perceptions of him” and that it suggests “Trump himself believes his views are indefensible before a Hispanic audience.”
He added that the goal of the event was to engage Trump on a number of issues — besides immigration — including the economy, taxes, trade, national security, race relations, and women’s rights. USHCC said the group has confirmed future events with other candidates, including GOPers Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, as well as Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.