NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has pulled out of a planned question-and-answer session with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington next week because he was concerned about the questions he'd be asked, the group said Friday.
Chamber spokesman Ammar Campa-Najjar said Trump was "unwilling to abide by the terms and conditions" of sessions that other candidates accepted.
"Trump's decision to forfeit the Q&A session was motivated by the concern of being 'put on trial,'" he said.
The meeting was expected to be heated. Trump has repeatedly been criticized by Hispanic groups for comments he's made about immigrants living in the country illegally, describing some as "criminals" and "rapists." He was also likely to be pressed on his call for mass deportation.
Trump told CNN he'd never agreed to the event and didn't know about it.
But Campa-Najjar said he was present at a Sept. 1 meeting in New York with other chamber officials, when Trump flipped through his calendar and picked Oct. 8 as his preferred date for the appearance.
"Saying that Trump did not personally confirm to do the Q&A on October 8th is a lie, plain and simple," Javier Palomarez, the chamber's president, added in an emailed statement. "Clearly, someone got cold feet and couldn't rise to the occasion."
He described the cancellation as a "Trump tantrum" and said it "further disqualifies him as a serious candidate in the eyes of the Hispanic community."
Trump had also spoken publicly about plans to appear before the group.
In an interview on Geraldo Rivera's radio show last month, Trump said he'd agreed "to do some kind of luncheon or whatever down in Washington" in October after meeting with Palomarez in New York.
"That won't be that easy a meeting because you'll have hundreds of people and they will have constituents of his and they may disagree with me," Trump said then, "but ultimately we will all get along."
Trump's campaign said in a statement Friday that he would not be participating in the event and would instead be speaking "to a capacity crowd" at a campaign rally in Nevada that day.
A statement from his campaign accused Palomarez of trying to "leverage the national media attention surrounding Mr. Trump to benefit his organization" and "exploit Mr. Trump to enlist additional support and increase interest and revenue in his coalition."
"Mr. Trump remains committed to reaching out to the Hispanic community in more genuine and productive ways as he continues to share his vision to make America great again," it read.
Several 2016 candidates, including Republican Ted Cruz and Democrats Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, have participated in the group's sessions. Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio is scheduled Tuesday and others are in discussion with the group.