Republican front-runner Donald Trump asked CNN in a letter on Wednesday to donate the proceeds of the upcoming Republican presidential debate to veterans groups — a move that seems geared more towards celebrating his campaign than the request itself.
The billionaire real estate mogul’s request tests the limits of his clout and depends entirely on his own logic, which suggests that his success as a reality television star has turned the Republican primary series into television-ratings gold for the media.
“While I refuse to brag, and as you know very well, this tremendous increase in viewer interest and advertising is due 100% to ‘Donald J. Trump,‘ “ he wrote in a letter emailed out to reporters on Wednesday morning. “You should view the second debate broadcast as a public service and not accept the massive profits that this airing will generate.”
CNN has not responded to Trump’s demand.
Trump’s celebrity and curiosity around his campaign helped send ratings for the last debate’s broadcast soaring. A record 24 million tuned in to watch the last debate, up from the 3.2 million viewers who watched first primary debate four years ago.
Still, the letter seems less about helping veterans — Trump only said the proceeds should go to “VETERANS groups,” emphasis his, adding that he’ll send a list of suggested groups later — and more about touting his own successes.
The last time Trump made news on veterans, he was mocking Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican senator and Vietnam veteran, for being a prisoner of war.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in July. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
Trump said in his Wednesday letter that concern for veterans is a driving issue in his campaign, but he has not offered up any specific policy proposals to tackle longstanding issues with the Veterans Administration.
“The veterans of our country, our finest people, have been treated horribly by our government and its ‘all talk and no action’ politicians. In fact, some would say they are treated like third class citizens — even worse, in many cases, than illegal immigrants,” he wrote, turning the issue back towards his main campaign talking point of immigration.
Trump first floated the idea of donating debate revenue last month at a rally in Iowa.
“I should go to CNN, they’re doing the next debate, and I should say to Jeff Zucker, a great guy, Jeff I’m gonna do the debate but I want $10 million for charity, American Cancer Society, AIDS research, we’ll pick 10 great, a million, otherwise I’m not going to the debate — and honestly I think they’d pay me,” he said at an event in Dubuque.