Reality TV star and property mogul Donald Trump said on Tuesday he will not moderate a planned debate among Republican presidential hopefuls after all but two candidates declined to attend.
Some Republicans worried the showboating Trump, star of NBC's "The Apprentice" program where he is known for his catch phrase "You're fired," could make the event all about him.
Newt Gingrich, who has surged to the front of the Republican field in recent weeks, and former Senator Rick Santorum were planning to participate in Trump's December 27 forum in Iowa.
"I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate," Trump said in a statement. "Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate."
The debate was to be sponsored by the Newsmax website and broadcast on the Ion cable television network. It was to come at a time when Americans are busy with holidays but less than a week before the key January 3 caucus in Iowa and the first primary in New Hampshire on January 10.
(Reporting by Mark Egan, editing by Jackie Frank)