By JANET HOOK – – – –
Donald Trump on Friday threw cold water on the provocative idea of debating Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying it “seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher” in the Democratic primary.
Mr. Trump’s statement put an end to days of speculation about whether he was serious or joking when he first said he was willing to debate Mr. Sanders — an offer that the underdog seized on with enthusiasm. Mr. Sanders’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, has said she isn’t interested in further debates with Mr. Sanders as the race nears the finish line.
Mr. Trump first signaled he was open to the idea of a Trump-Sanders showdown in an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on Wednesday, when he predicted a Sanders-Trump debate would get “such high ratings.”
Asked the next day if he was serious, Mr. Trump said he was but would want a television network to put up $10 million or more to host the event, which would be donated to charity.
Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said earlier Friday that there were two networks willing to host a debate ahead of the California primary June 7, and that they were willing to make a charitable donation.
But in his statement refusing to debate, Mr. Trump said he doubted the networks generosity.
“The networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes,” he said in his written statement.
“Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders – and it would be an easy payday – I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be,” he said in the statement.