He spent big to cultivate the conservative group, only to walk away after a dispute over a Q&A session.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland ― Donald Trump spent five years building a mutually beneficial relationship with the organization that hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, filling its coffers with at least $150,000 in cash and scoring coveted speaking slots that started him on a course towards winning the Republican presidential nomination.
But he ended up canceling what would have been his biggest CPAC speech at the last minute amid plans for protest and disruptions, apparently deciding that his surging presidential campaign no longer needed any boost from the once-storied group.
Amid criticism of the relationship with CPAC’s organizers, Trump also bristled at their insistence that he answer questions from a journalist of their choosing onstage after his speech, according to sources familiar with the planning.
“They refused to accept the terms and they asked us to change the terms to allow him to give longer remarks,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, the group that sponsors CPAC. “And we said no to that.”
An ACU board member added that Trump “didn’t want to answer questions, and he decided he was the frontrunner so he didn’t need to answer them, or even to show up,” said a member of the board member of the American Conservative Union, the group that sponsors CPAC.
The organization went back and forth with Trump’s campaign about the Q&A session, according to the board member.
“Trump thinks everything is negotiable, but this wasn’t,” said the board member, who didn’t want to be identified discussing internal negotiations. “It’s ACU’s policy to have every presidential candidate actually answer questions, not just come and give a stump speech,” the board member said, noting the policy was implemented last year. On Friday, Trump’s rivals Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich were questioned after their Friday afternoon speeches by Fox News host Sean Hannity. The intent is for “hard questions, but not gotcha questions,” said the board member.
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