Donald Trump wouldn’t let a few boos (okay, a lot – and they were loud) get him down.
Right out of the gate Thursday night, the blunt, brash, reality TV billionaire lived up to expectations of making the debut Republican presidential debate must-see TV.
First question by Fox News moderator Bret Baier: Raise your hand if you won’t pledge to support whoever is eventually the Republican nominee.
With his signature lip pout and shrug, Trump raised his hand.
There was a loud chorus of “booooo!” from the audience in Cleveland’s massive Quicken Loans Arena. Each of the other nine candidates on stage kept their hands down.
And Baier sounded incredulous.
“Experts say an independent run would almost certainly hand the race over to Democrats and likely another Clinton,” Baier told Trump. “You can’t say tonight that you can make that pledge?”
Replied Trump: “I cannot say I have to respect the person that – if it’s not me – the person that wins. I can totally make that pledge if I m the nominee. … [But] I will not make the pledge at this time.”
And he was just getting warmed up.
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Another of the trio of Fox moderators, Megyn Kelly, confronted Trump with a list of adjectives he’s used – on TV, Twitter and his own reality show Celebrity Apprentice – to describe women: “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals … ”
“Only Rosie O’Donnell,” Trump interrupted.
Cue the uncomfortable “Ooooooooh’s.”
O’Donnell would later respond to the jab on Twitter.
Kelly pressed on, asking Trump how he’ll answer the charge from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton that he’s part of the “war on women.”
Unbowed, Trump responded: “Oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding, we have a good time. … Honestly, Megan, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you although I could probably not be based on the way you’ve treated me.”
Trump didn’t tiptoe around his competitors, either.
When Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul accused Trump, by refusing to rule out an Independent run, of “hedging his bets on the Clintons because he’s used to buying politicians.”
Gesturing to Paul, Trump sniffed, “Well, I’ve given him plenty of money.”
And Trump wasn’t shy about having given money to the Clinton Foundation. Asked what he “bought” with those donations, Trump boasted: “With Hillary Clinton? I said, ‘Be at my wedding.’ And she came to my wedding. You know why? She had no choice because I gave.”
There are 180 more days of this before the first Republican primary contest – in Iowa.