US Republican presidential candidates have taken aim at Donald Trump for failing to show up at their latest televised debate.
The event, hosted by Fox Business in California, saw Mr Trump’s rivals stepping up their attacks on him in an effort to put a stop to the former president’s commanding lead in the polls ahead of the election next year.
Instead, Mr Trump went to the key state of Michigan to deliver a speech amid the backdrop of a car manufacturer’s strike.
Candidates in California were asked about education, economic policy and the border with Mexico in a wide-ranging debate – but attention was often turned to Mr Trump’s absence on the panel.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has tried to style himself as an alternative to Mr Trump – despite sharing similar ideologies – said: “He should be on this stage tonight.
“He owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt. That set the stage for the inflation we have now.”
Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, added Mr Trump “hides behind the walls of his golf clubs and won’t show up here to answer questions like all the rest of us are up here to answer”.
Then addressing the former president directly, Mr Christie said: “Donald, I know you’re watching. You can’t help yourself.
“You’re ducking these things. And let me tell you what’s going to happen. You keep doing that, no one here’s going to call you Donald Trump anymore – we’re going to call you Donald Duck.”
Even Vivek Ramaswamy, the businessman who has generally praised Mr Trump, said it will “take a different generation” to continue the “America first” agenda.
Mr Trump, seemingly unfazed about his ever-growing legal troubles, delivered a prime-time speech in Detroit, which ran into the beginning of the televised event.
“We’re competing with the job candidates,” he said as he poked fun at his rivals for not drawing big crowds to their speeches.
The candidates did turn on each other and