Until Tuesday evening, boycotting a debate fell into the category of wacky things Trump has said he might do — at least three times, actually — but ultimately didn't. And who knows? He's so fickle that he could change his mind again, and it wouldn't be stunning. Until he's a no-show in Des Moines on Thursday night, we can't rule anything out.
But for now, anyway, Trump is out, and you might be wondering: How did we get to this point? You probably recall Trump's "blood coming out of her wherever" remark about Fox News host Megyn Kelly, who asked tough questions during the first Republican primary debate in August and who will be back as a co-moderator on Thursday. The short answer is that Trump wanted Kelly out, Fox News held firm and Trump walked.
But there's more to the story of how Trump's relationship with conservatives' favorite news source turned so sour. Let's relive some of the flare-ups that led to this epic fallout:
Aug. 6: At the first GOP debate of the primary season, Kelly asks Trump if he possesses the "temperament" to be president, given the fact that "you've called women you don't like 'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' 'slobs' and 'disgusting animals.'"
Aug. 7: Trump says in an interview on CNN that Kelly had "blood coming out of her wherever" when she confronted him about his language toward women — a comment that many take to refer to Kelly's menstrual cycle. Trump denies this was what he meant.
Also on this day, television ratings show that 24 million people watched the previous night's debate, smashing cable viewership records and emboldening Trump, who takes credit for the big number and apparently concludes that TV networks are so dependent upon him that they will bow to his wishes.
Aug. 11: Kelly says on her show that she has "decided not to respond" to Trump's "blood" comment.
Aug. 13: Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes tells the Los Angeles Times that Kelly will return as a moderator for the Jan. 28 debate (Thursday's).
Aug. 24: After a post-debate vacation, Kelly returns to hosting her show, and Trump goes on a Twitter rant that would become typical over the next few months.
Aug. 25: Ailes issues a sharply worded statement backing Kelly and condemning Trump's digital fusillade:
Donald Trump's surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing. Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at Fox News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise. I could not be more proud of Megyn for her professionalism and class in the face of all of Mr. Trump’s verbal assaults. Her questioning of Mr. Trump at the debate was tough but fair, and I fully support her as she continues to ask the probing and challenging questions that all presidential candidates may find difficult to answer. Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should. We have never been deterred by politicians or anyone else attacking us for doing our job, much less allowed ourselves to be bullied by anyone and we’re certainly not going to start now. All of our journalists will continue to report in the fair and balanced way that has made Fox News Channel the No. 1 news network in the industry.
Sept. 21: Trump makes clear that his complaints about Fox News go beyond Kelly.
Sept. 23: Trump announces a boycott of all Fox News shows.
Sept. 29: Trump ends the boycott by appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor."
Oct. 7: On Charlie Rose's TV program, Kelly opens up about the frost between her and Trump and says she hopes they can move forward as professionals.
Nov. 4: Trump goes after Kelly on Twitter again. This time, she responds.
Nov. 29: Adweek publishes an interview in which Ailes describes a conversation he had with Trump shortly after the August debate.
Look, I've always had the same relationship with Donald for 30 years. It's a friendly relationship, surprisingly enough. I did call him after the first go-round, and I said, "What the hell is wrong with you? The United States is at war with every goddamn country in the Middle East, and you're at war with Megyn Kelly and you think that looks good? It doesn't look good."
Dec. 15: On the day of a CNN debate, Trump rips Kelly and Fox News for their coverage and analysis of his poll numbers and debate performances.
Dec. 16: After complaining about questions during the CNN debate, Trump appears again on O'Reilly's show. But when O'Reilly invites Trump to air his grievances, all he wants to do is knock Fox News, not CNN.
In the past, she says, "he would send me press clippings about me that he would just sign 'Donald Trump.' And he called from time to time to compliment a segment. I didn't know why he was doing that. And then when he announced that he was running for president, it became more clear. But I can't be wooed. I was never going to love him, and I was never going to hate him."
Jan. 25: Trump says in a CNN interview that he will "probably" participate in the upcoming Fox News debate but adds, "I'm not 100 percent."
Jan. 26: Trump posts an Instagram video complaining about Kelly's alleged bias and polls his Twitter followers about whether he should attend the debate. Ailes, meanwhile, tells The Fix that he will not be replacing Kelly as moderator.
Trump finally decides that he definitely will not go.
In a late-night statement, Fox accuses Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, of issuing a threat:
In a call on Saturday with a Fox News executive, Lewandowski stated that Megyn had a ‘rough couple of days after that last debate’ and he ‘would hate to have her go through that again.’ Lewandowski was warned not to level any more threats, but he continued to do so. We can’t give in to terrorizations toward any of our employees.
Jan. 27: Lewandowski assures MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Fox will pay a price for not having Trump in its debate. "Maybe Fox was going to have a 20- or 25-million-person debate. But without Mr. Trump’s participation, I think they may have a 1 or 2-million-person debate."