The Republican National Committee will advise future GOP candidates to stay out of future debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates unless it makes “significant reforms” to its events, Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel warned in a letter.
“The Republican Party needs assurances that the CPD will make meaningful reforms to the debate process by working with stakeholders to restore the faith and legitimacy it has lost,” McDaniel said Tuesday in the letter, reports Axios. “If not, as RNC Chairman, I will have no choice but to advise future Republican candidates against participating in CPD-hosted debates.”
McDaniel’s letter followed several complaints that were made last year by then-President Donald Trump on issues including the choices of debate monitors, the decision to mute candidates’ microphones after the first debate between him and then-Democrat nominee Joe Biden was filled with interruptions, and after the second debate was replaced by town halls after Trump refused to attend a second debate that was scheduled virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The CPD’s repeated missteps and the partisan actions of its Board Members make clear that the organization no longer provides the fair and impartial forum for presidential debates which the law requires and the American people deserve,” McDaniel wrote. “Our sincere hope is that the CPD accepts this criticism and works to correct its mistakes.”
The RNC is demanding several reforms, including hosting the first debate before early voting starts in any state, and not allowing the commission to change the debate format at the last minute, like it tried to do last year by its attempt to switch the Oct. 15 debate to a virtual event.
The committee also wants term limits and a code of conduct for board members and called for potential moderators “who have an appearance of bias” to be disqualified, referring to C-SPAN moderator Steve Scully who had worked in the past for Biden.
McDaniel also complained that there were Commission board members who had “gone on record making disparaging comments about President Trump.”
“To our knowledge, six of CPD’s 10-member Board of Directors (Sen. John Danforth, Charles Gibson, Rep. Jane Harman, Newton Minow, Richard Parsons, and Sen. Olympia Snow) have gone on record making disparaging comments about President Trump while serving on the board,” said McDaniel. “Mr. Minow went as far as to ask the five living former presidents to ‘lead us to safety’ from President Trump.”
The letter also pointed out that Trump, “thanks to his background in television” realized that plexiglass shields that had been installed for COVID protection at the Oct. 22 debate would have created reflections and would have “caused a surprising and awkward distraction” for the candidates, and claimed that had the board gone ahead with the shields it could have “derailed” the debate.
McDaniel concluded the letter by asking the board to respond to the suggestions by July 31, and added that if changes weren’t made, the RNC would “look for other options for its candidates to debate the issues before the American people in a neutral and nonpartisan forum.”