Donald Trump to Moderate GOP Debate

Billionaire Donald Trump will moderate a Republican presidential debate later this month. (AP File Photo)

Donald Trump will moderate a Republican presidential debate in Iowa at the end of the month, the New York Times reported.

The business mogul and reality TV star — who flirted with the idea of making his own presidential bid earlier this year — will pair up with the conservative magazine and news site Newsmax for the Des Moines, Iowa debate on Dec. 27.

“Our readers and the grass roots really love Trump,” Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media, told the Times. “They may not agree with him on everything, but they don’t see him as owned by the Washington establishment, the media establishment.”

According to the Times, Newsmax sent an invitation to all the GOP contenders Friday that began, “We are pleased to cordially invite you to ‘The Newsmax Ion Television 2012 Presidential Debate,’ moderated by a truly great American, Mr. Donald J. Trump.”

The debate, which will air on the cable channel Ion Television, will be the final one before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.

Trump is an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama, as well as a long-time skeptic of his birth certificate. According to The Hill, he has held private meetings with Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, and will meet with Newt Gingrich on Monday.

UPDATE: Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has turned down the debate invitation, with a statement reading in part:

[W]e have declined to participate in the ‘Presidential Apprentice’ Debate with The Donald. The Republican Party deserves a serious discussion of the issues so voters can choose a leader they trust to defeat President Obama and turn our economy around.

According to Business Insider, Huntsman campaign spokesman Tim Miller had this to add:

“Lol. We look forward to watching Mitt and Newt suck-up to The Donald with a big bowl of popcorn,” he said in an email to Business Insider.

Huntsman is also reportedly skipping another debate next week in Iowa. He previously sat out a Las Vegas debate in October.