Fox News host Bill O'Reilly scolded Donald Trump on his show Wednesday, telling the GOP presidential front-runner his skipping the Fox News debate is not helpful to the country.
"I don't think not showing up at the debate tomorrow night is good for America," O'Reilly said. "Voters are still assessing you. They need to see you in high-profile situations."
Trump had scheduled the interview on "The O'Reilly Factor"
last week and honored his commitment to show up despite his spat with Fox News, which Trump accused of being childish in taunting him with a press release that he would face tougher challenges than debate moderator Megyn Kelly if elected.
Trump told O'Reilly he is wrong and that he was right to walk away from the debate because he was mistreated.
"Frankly, when you are mistreated, as we were with the Iran deal, our country should have walked," he said.
O'Reilly said he believes Trump wants to improve the country, but that by skipping the debate he loses a chance to convince others of that.
Trump said he planned to do that by hosting an alternative program
at the same time as the debate.
"We will raise a lot of money for the veterans," Trump said. "A lot of money is going to be raised. A lot of people are going to be there, and I can do some good."
O'Reilly said that was good, but that Trump could do that any day – not just at the same time as the Fox News debate.
Trump accused Fox of not giving money to veterans, and O'Reilly countered that Fox has allowed him to use his show to raise more than $20 million to buy track chairs for wounded veterans.
O'Reilly suggested Trump handle any questions he deems inappropriate as Newt Gingrich did in 2012 when CNN's John King asked him whether he had asked his former wife for an open marriage.
Gingrich told King he was "appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that."
"If they treated you unfairly, and I don't believe they would, O'Reilly told Trump, "then you have got 60 seconds to let them have it right between the guys. That's the kind of guy you are. You stand up. You let them have it."
O'Reilly told Trump he thought Kelly's question about his treatment of women in August's debate was "within journalistic bounds," though he admitted he would have asked it differently.
O'Reilly also pointed out Trump's recent uptick in church attendance as the Iowa caucuses approach on Monday.
"In your Christian faith, there is a very significant tenet, and that's the tenet of forgiveness," O'Reilly said. "I think you should forgive not only journalists who come at you in ways you don't like, but I think you should be the bigger man and say, 'You know what, I didn't like it … but I'm not going to take any action against it.'"
Trump agreed that was "probably" the right thing to do, but added there's also the biblical principal of "an eye for an eye."
O'Reilly countered that "eye-for-an-eye" is an Old Testament rule, and Trump, as a Christian, should practice the New Testament charge from Jesus to turn the other cheek.
Trump had told O'Reilly he didn't want him to ask if he would reconsider skipping the debate, but O'Reilly did so anyway.
"Well, even though you and I had an agreement that you wouldn't ask me that, which we did, I will, therefore, forget that you asked me that," Trump said.
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