Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump won't take part in Thursday's debate, claiming the Fox's Megyn Kelly isn't fair to him.

Trump's pullout came after Fox News Channel tweaked the GOP front-runner for asking his Twitter followers whether he should debate. The network, in a sarcastically worded statement, said it had learned from a "secret back channel" that the leaders of Iran and Russia planned to treat Trump unfairly if elected.

"A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings," read the statement from a Fox News Channel representative.

Trump released his own statement Tuesday, which in part said: "Unlike the very stupid, highly incompetent people running our country into the ground, Mr. Trump knows when to walk away. Roger Ailes and FOX News think they can toy with him, but Mr. Trump doesn’t play games."

The feud between Trump and Kelly began during the first FOX News debate in August, when Kelly asked the candidate if previous, disparaging comments he has made against women reflect the temperament of a president.

On Tuesday, Trump called Kelly a "lightweight reporter."

Trump's presidential campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Wednesday that Trump will instead spend his time with wounded veterans in Des Moines, Iowa. The state hosts the country's lead-off presidential contest on Feb. 1.

Ted Cruz mocked Trump's decision to skip the debate, taunting him on Twitter and creating an image of his face on the illustrated body of Disney tycoon Scrooge McDuck, sitting on top of bags of money.

Cruz on Tuesday responded to Trump's decision to skip the debate in Des Moines by challenging him to a one-on-one debate, "mano-a-mano." Cruz is following that up on Wednesday with a satirical message on Twitter, linking to a clip of the song "Brave Sir Robin Ran Away" from a film by the British comedy troupe Monty Python.

Cruz created an online petition showing a mock-up of Trump with the Disney character's body, sitting on bags of money, on top of a mountain of gold coins, encouraging supporters to "Tell Ducking Donald: Debate Ted Cruz."

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