While there were plenty of fireworks during Thursday night's Republican debate on the Fox News Channel, one of the most interesting moments took place off camera, when co-host Megyn Kelly referred to the GOP front-runner – who didn't attend the final event before the Iowa Caucuses on Monday -- as “He Who Must Not Be Named,” a phrase often used to describe Voldemort, the evil wizard in the 'Harry Potter' books and films.
During an interview after the event, Texas Senator Ted Cruz told Kelly: “Well, you know, you were joking just before we went on air that it was sort of like Voldemort, 'He Who Must Not Be Named.'”
The Daily Mail reported that Fox News said:
In an off camera exchange, Megyn asked Senator Ted Cruz about the fact that Donald Trump got very little mention from any of them during the debate.
She asked him (approximate quote) off camera: "You seem to be treating Trump like Voldemort – 'he who shall not be named' – did you plan that?'"
A source said that Kelly had no intention to insult Trump and 'would never' do so, and said she was 'not familiar' with the Harry Potter series.
Megyn Kelly opened the debate with a dig at Trump as “the elephant not in the room.”
She then posed a question to the other candidates:
'Donald Trump has chosen not to attend this evening's presidential debate. What message do you think that sends to the voters of Iowa?'
Cruz responded quickly and was the first candidate to joke about Trump. He told Kelly: 'I'm a maniac, and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly, and Ben, you're a terrible surgeon.”
“Now that we've got the Donald Trump portion out of the way, I want to thank everyone here for showing the men and women of Iowa the respect to show up,” Cruz said.
According to the Daily Mail reporters, Trump instead “addressed a veterans' rally” -- and said Fox had been desperate to have him. “Fox has been extremely nice the last number of hours,” he said.
“Fox came close to admitting it had apologized to him,” the reporters noted, “but then claimed he had demanded $5 million for his own charity to turn up.” As a result, “the toxic feud between the front-runner and the cable channel completely overshadowed the debate.”
“Kelly did not deny the comment, smiled, and asked him if there had been a 'pact' not to discuss Trump among the seven GOP candidates on stage,” the writers stated.
During the morning after the debate, a Fox News spokesperson claimed that Cruz was wrong -- and that Kelly had simply said 'he who shall not be named.'”
Elsewhere in the city on Thursday evening, Trump was singing a different tune, however, saying at his own event that the network apologized to him for press releases mocking his character.
Fox acknowledged the apology in a statement after the debate -- but then claimed Trump demanded $5 million in the course of their conversations to show up.
“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,” the network spokesperson indicated.
“Fox has been extremely nice the last number of hours,” Trump told a chuckling audience at Drake University in a standing-room-only auditorium where rivals Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee joined him on stage.
“'How 'bout now?” he stated regarding a recent call. “They called me a few minutes ago, and I said: 'Hasn't it already started?'”
“But Trump insisted on continuing with his own competing event,” the reporters stated, “where he said more than $5 million had already been raised for his personal foundation, all of which will benefit veterans groups.”
Meanwhile, a Fox spokesman stated:
In the last 48 hours, we've kept two issues at the forefront -- we would never compromise our journalistic standards, and we would always stand by our journalist, Megyn Kelly. We have accomplished those two goals, and we are pleased with the outcome.
We're very proud to have her on stage as a debate moderator alongside Bret Baier and Chris Wallace.
In addition, Trump speculated about what impact skipping the last debate before the Iowa Caucuses would have on his campaign.
“Will it be a good thing? Will it be a bad thing? Will I get more votes? Will I get less votes? Who the hell knows!” Trump mused.
We'll get our first indication on Monday, when the Iowa Caucuses start the 2016 primary season.