Donald Trump went through with his charity rally for veterans Thursday night, but he told the crowd at Drake University in Des Moines that he would have loved to have been at the debate instead. “I didn’t want to be here, I have to be honest,” he said, per the Hill. “I wanted to be about five minutes away [at the GOP debate]. … But you have to stick up for your rights. When you’re treated badly you have to stick up to your rights … and it’s something our country needs to do.” Trump said Fox execs called him repeatedly to apologize and to try to get him to change his mind, though the network cast that in a different light. “Roger Ailes had three brief conversations with Donald Trump today about possibly appearing at the debate—there were not multiple calls placed by Ailes to Trump,” said a network statement picked up by the Washington Post. It added that Trump demanded $5 million for his charities in order to attend the debate, an offer Fox refused.
"We explained that was not possible and we could not engage in a quid pro quo, nor could any money change hands for any reason," said the statement. Despite his stated wish to have been at the debate, Trump was happy to boast about the coverage his hastily arranged event drew, notes Politico. “We’re actually told we have more cameras than they do by quite a bit,” he said, likening his coverage to that of the Oscars. In one weird moment, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum made cameos on stage after their own undercard debate, with Santorum making clear that he wasn't supporting Trump for president and that he was there only for the veterans. Another classic Trump moment: Near the end, he asked pregnant daughter Ivanka to stand and announced that she's due in two weeks, adding that he'd love for her to give birth in Iowa instead, notes FiveThirtyEight. (Trump's absence loomed over the main debate.)