By Michael A. Memoli
3:03 PM PST, December 13, 2011
It would have been huge. But Donald Trump has bigger plans than to moderate a presidential debate -- perhaps to participate in one as a candidate.
That's Trump's excuse for bowing out of the Dec. 27 forum hosted by Newsmax and Ion Television, which had attracted only two of the remaining Republican candidates.
In a statement, Trump cited the concerns of those who declined the invitation that he might mount an independent bid next spring after his reality show, "The Apprentice," signs off.
"It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama administration," he said. "But if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an independent candidate. 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."
Trump thanked Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum "for having the courage, conviction and confidence to immediately accept" Newsmax's invitation.
"I believe this would not only have been the most watched debate, but also the most substantive and interesting debate!"
A Newsmax official said Friday that plans for the debate were "full steam ahead," and there were no plans to dump Trump.
Updated: Editorial director Steve Coz said Tuesday that organizers were "very disappointed" that Trump pulled out as moderator, but respected "his view that the role may have presented a conflict of interest" in light of his own presidential aspirations. He did not indicate whether the debate would be canceled or if a new moderator would be chosen.
Since we'll never see the real thing, here is a glimpse at what could have been, as portrayed on "Saturday Night Live."
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