What started out as a simple dismissive email from Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul rejecting a Donald Trump-moderated debate has turned into a full blown war of words between the two men.
The exchange got personal, with Paul questioning Trump’s financial competency, accusing him of mismanaging his finances, and Trump issuing a statement saying Paul was “willing to lie” and “either very jealous of Mr. Trump, stupid, or a combination of both.”
The exchanged started earlier today when Paul joined fellow presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman in bowing out of a Trump-moderated presidential debate sponsored by conservative website Newsmax.com and planned for Dec. 27 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Paul’s campaign chairman, Jesse Benton, distributed a scathing press release saying that Trump’s participation “is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity.”
“Mr. Trump’s participation as moderator will distract from questions and answers concerning important issues such as the national economy, crushing federal government debt, the role of the federal government, foreign policy, and the like,” Benton said.
Benton called the choice of Trump as a moderator “wildly inappropriate” and said his presence at the debate will “contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere.”
“Therefore, our candidate Ron Paul, the champion of the Constitution, has advised he will not attend,” Benton concluded.
Trump did not take the rejection well.
In a statement to ABC News, Trump called Paul “a clown-like candidate” who has “inconsequential poll numbers or a chance of winning.”
Trump went on to plug his book and questioned how Ron Paul would fare in the world of big business.
Trump’s reply prompted another statement from the Paul campaign.
In it Benton suggested that if Trump wanted to be taken seriously by Republicans, he needs to quit the reality show “Celebrity Apprentice” in which he stars.
“If he gets his act together, President Paul might consider getting his advice on fixing our country’s financial situation,” writes Benton in an email to ABC station KTRK-TV in Houston. “We understand Donald has a lot of experience with bankruptcy.”
Accusing Trump of questionable finances promoted another statement accusing Paul of being “willing to lie” to make a point.
“By making such an absurd comment, Mr. Paul is either very jealous of Mr. Trump, stupid or a combination of both,” said Michael D. Cohen, Executive Vice President and Special Counsel to Donald J. Trump
The statement denies that Trump ever went bankrupt, adding that he “used the laws of the country on a few companies that he owned, owned small pieces of or bought to his benefit.”
The statement also says that Trump revived several distressed properties such a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, the Kluge Winery in Virginia, and the Commodore Hotel in New York.
“People who are worth 7 billion dollars, with little to no debt and 270 million in cash do not go bankrupt,” Cohen said.
The two have never really had much of a relationship. At the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year, Trump proclaimed that Paul had “zero chance” of getting elected president, which drew loud boos from the Paul supporters in the audience.
Paul shot back that he’s been elected in Texas 11 times — something Trump hasn’t even accomplished once.