Donald Trump, the real-estate mogul and reality-television star, has pulled the plug on his own debate, after top GOP candidates declined his invite and several party leaders said the debate wasn’t a good idea given that Trump was considering a presidential bid of his own.

U.S. property magnate Donald Trump smiles during the inauguration of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City July 6, 2011. The 70-story luxury residential and hotel is the first Trump hotel in Latin America. (© Alberto Lowe / Reuters/REUTERS)

Trump, in announcing his decision to cancel the Dec. 27 Iowa debate, said that he reserved his right to mount an independent presidential bid.

“It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, 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,” he 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.”

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich both agreed to attend the debate, yet all the other candidates either cited scheduling conflicts or Trump’s role as a reason to skip the debate.

Ron Paul and Jon M. Huntsman Jr were particularly critical, saying that the debate was beneath the dignity of a presidential run and would contribute to a circus-like atmosphere.

Karl Rove weighed in as well, saying that the Republican National Committee chairman had a duty to encourage GOP candidates to skip the debate, given that Trump could mount an independent run.

Trump has flirted with a run since the spring, and nearly every candidate has gone to New York to meet with him.

“The American people are embarrassed by the gridlock currently taking place in Washington I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!” he said.

“I would like to thank Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for having the courage, conviction, and confidence to immediately accept being a part of the Newsmax debate. I believe this would not only have been the most watched debate, but also the most substantive and interesting debate!”

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