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Fox News Refuses to Remove Megyn Kelly from Debate Over Trump's Boycott: 'We Can't Give in to Terrorizations'

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SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty;Paul Morigi/Getty

Fox News is refusing to back down after Donald Trump announced he would be boycotting the Republican debate the network is hosting this Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.

In a statement released Tuesday night, Fox News claims Trump’s “near unprecedented” refusal to participate in the debate – which comes just three days before the Iowa caucuses – is “rooted in one thing”: his highly publicized feud with anchor Megyn Kelly, “whom he has viciously attacked since August and has now spent four days demanding be removed from the debate stage.”

“Capitulating to politicians’ ultimatums about a debate moderator violates all journalistic standards, as do threats, including the one leveled by Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski toward Megyn Kelly,” the statement continues.

The network alleges that, in a call with a Fox News executive on Saturday, Lewandowski said Kelly 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. Trump is still welcome at Thursday night’s debate and will be treated fairly, just as he has been during his 132 appearances on FOX News & FOX Business, but he can’t dictate the moderators or the questions.”

Lewandowski told reporters on Tuesday that the billionaire businessman would definitely not be in attendance when the other candidates go head to head on Thursday night.

“It’s not under negotiation,” Lewandowski said. “We’ll have an event here in Iowa with potentially another network, to raise money for wounded warriors. And Fox will go from probably having 24 million viewers to about 2 million.”

Trump previously told CNN’s Wolf Blizter that he would “do something else” if he thought he was going to be “treated unfairly” at the debate. He took to Twitter on Saturday to call for Kelly to be removed from the debate:

In a statement released Tuesday night, Trump’s campaign called the Fox-hosted debate a “bad deal” for the real estate mogul.

“Unlike the very stupid, highly incompetent people running our country into the ground, Mr. Trump knows when to walk away,” the statement read. “Roger Ailes and FOX News think they can toy with him, but Mr. Trump doesn’t play games. There have already been six debates, and … Mr. Trump has won all of them, in particular the last one.”

“He will not be participating in the FOX News debate and will instead host an event in Iowa to raise money for the Veterans and Wounded Warriors, who have been treated so horribly by our all talk, no action politicians.”

He also responded to Fox News’ statement on Twitter on Wednesday, writing:

Right after he took another shot at Kelly:

His comment refers to his August retweet of a Trump supporter who called Kelly a bimbo.

Two can play at that game. Kelly on Wednesday retweeted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Fox News political analyst Brit Hume’s criticisms of Trump:

#DonaldDuck Vs. The ‘Pussycat’

In a previous statement, Fox News quipped that they were “very surprised [Trump is] willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly” – a sentiment director Michael Moore echoed during an interview with Kelly Tuesday night.

“What’s he afraid of?” Moore asked the anchor. “I’m sitting here, I don’t feel any fear.”

“You shouldn’t,” Kelly replied, “I’m a pussycat.”

With Ted Cruz supporters trying to get the hashtag “#DonaldDuck” trending on Twitter, we’re left with an irresistible match-up: Donald Duck vs. The Pussycat.