The Republican National Committee on Thursday unanimously voted to withdraw from its participation in presidential debates sanctioned by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), calling the organization “biased” against the GOP and saying it does not “serve the interest of the American people.”
“Debates are an important part of the democratic process, and the RNC is committed to free and fair debates,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.
“The Commission on Presidential Debates is biased and has refused to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates including hosting debates before voting begins and selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage.”
She said the RNC would find, “newer, better debate platforms to ensure that future nominees are not forced to go through the biased CPD in order to make their case to the American people.”
McDaniel cited four reasons for the split:
- Waiting until 26 states had begun early voting before hosting the first presidential debate in 2020.
- Making unilateral changes to previously agreed-upon debate formats and conditions, in some cases without even notifying the candidates.
- Choosing a moderator in 2020 who had once worked for Joe Biden.
- Failing to maintain the organization’s strict nonpartisanship, with a majority of its board members publicly disparaging the Republican nominee.
The RNC has threatened for months to pull out of debates organized by the CPD, a nonprofit that has run presidential and vice-presidential debates since 1988.
Former President Donald Trump has repeatedly leveled accusations of anti-Republican bias against the CPD, and in 2016 blasted the commission as “rigged” and declaring himself “done” with it.
“The head guy worked for Bill Clinton. Ay yai yai. What a rigged deal this is,” Trump said at a rally in Florida in reference to one CPD chair, Mike McCurry, who served as Clinton’s press secretary for 3 1/2 years.
Trump also included mention of allegations that Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton was fed a question by former DNC head Donna Brazile before a CNN town hall during the Democratic primary.
“Oh man, why can’t the Republicans do that?” he joked. “Why can’t Reince feed me information prior to a debate? I am so angry at the Republicans. I want to be fed information like Hillary gets.”
The RNC in January proposed a list of reforms it believed the CPD should make, including establishing codes of conduct and term limits for its board members, but McDaniel on Thursday said the group was “unwilling to make common sense reforms.”