In a statement on Wednesday, Donald Trump announced that he would not be attending Thursday’s Republican presidential debate due to the presence of Megyn Kelly and what he has deemed a “childish…and taunting” PR statement from Fox News.
Instead, Trump stated that he would be holding an alternative event to raise money for veterans and wounded warriors at Drake University.
However, it appears veterans want nothing to do with Trump—Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (which includes 150,000 veterans) made a statement on Twitter stating the group would refuse any money that came from Trump’s fundraiser.
If offered, @IAVA will decline donations from Trump's event. We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts.— Paul (PJ) Rieckhoff (@PaulRieckhoff) January 27, 2016
According to ThinkProgress, the IAVA “is one of the largest and most politically influential veterans’ groups in the United States [and] they will not make an endorsement in either the 2016 primaries or the general election in November. 'We hold them all accountable and have always been nonpartisan,’ Rieckhoff said of the many candidates vying for the White House.”
Trump’s move to boycott the debate, a calculated political statement undertaken only to bring more attention to himself, did not go over well with Rieckhoff and IAVA, who saw right through his charade. Rieckhoff explicitly clarified that, “Vets don't need political stunts. We need candidates to present smart, specific plans on VA reform, suicide…If folks want to support vets, $$ doesn't need to be funneled through a political campaign. Just donate directly to groups doing good work.”
Sen. Ted Cruz has jumped into the situation as well; a group of his Super PACS claimed that they would donate $1.5 million to veterans groups is Trump participated in the debate.
Rieckhoff called out the politically-driven nature of this “charitable” offer as well:
Now it's Cruz yanking vets into the nastiness of the presidential fights before Iowa. This is not what vets need. https://t.co/xY9zwQX11n— Paul (PJ) Rieckhoff (@PaulRieckhoff) January 28, 2016
Many criticized Rieckhoff and the IAVA for this stance, arguing that regardless of the motives, the donations would help veterans. Yet Rieckhoff remained firm, declaring that accepting money from political campaigns set a “bad precedent.”
Trump has claimed 2 other candidates want to join his event at Drake University, yet has not specified any names yet. If the IAVA will not accept his donations, it remains to be seen which veterans group will.
Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters