Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” while discussing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s objections to having the debate with his opponent Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on a night that NFL football is also televised, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said, “We’re not going to agree with anything our nominee doesn’t agree with.”
Partial transcript as follows:
DICKERSON: We turn now to the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus. He’s in Racine, Wisconsin, this morning. Mr. Chairman, Paul Manafort says that Donald Trump wants to participate in the debates, but it doesn’t sound like a full-blown commitment. Is there anything unfair about the way the debates are set up now at this moment?
REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, we’re going to be working with the commission, John, in what they’re putting together. Certainly, we’re not going to agree with anything that our nominee doesn’t agree with. And it would be incumbent upon them to communicate with us and others about what they have in mind. But we’re not going to be having debates on Saturday and Sunday nights, I don’t believe. It’s up to the nominee of both parties to make that that decision, but certainly the RNC is going to be involved in supporting our nominee and his position on this. My personal view is, is that we need maximize the audience and that’s going to be either a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday night. And that’s where we stand on the issue.
DICKERSON: These debates, the dates have been set for a long time. The independent commission that set them set them a long time ago. Why did we — are we just now hearing about this from the RNC?
PRIEBUS: Well, they don’t — they didn’t communicate to us. So, no one from the commission has called me. I know that Annenberg did a study and pointed out lot of flaws with this commission. And it’s been a hot topic, I think, in our party for a long time. And whether or not the RNC and the DNC should take over these debates is a topic that has been discussed in the past. I’m fine with working with the commission, as long as they’re willing to work with us. But I have not talked to them at all.
DICKERSON: So, Mr. Chairman, are you saying you didn’t know that the debates were set for these debates? The announcement on the debates was quite some time ago on the date.
PRIEBUS: They can set whatever dates they want, but it’s going to — I don’t really care when they set their debates. When they communicate with the nominees and they have contract put together, and we choose the moderators and we choose the networks that are going to be in charge of these debates, that to me is the time when all of this gets set. If they have target dates, that’s fine. But they haven’t communicated any of those things with the people that actually have to work with the nominees and the networks and everyone else to put actually these things together.
DICKERSON: I see. And so there’s one on a Sunday and on a Monday night. You think that there’s a problem with that, because it just — the audience will be too small because of the competition with football?
PRIEBUS: Well, I think it’s — I don’t understand why we would have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debating each other, which is of interest to the entire country — I mean, let’s face it, this is an election like none we have ever seen. There’s a massive national interest. We just saw that in both national conventions in breaking records. Why would we present the next president of the United States, one of the two of these folks, on a Sunday night or a Monday night? Why wouldn’t we want to maximize the audience and the viewership so that people can feel free to watch? I don’t understand why they would do that.
DICKERSON: Do you agree with the nominee that it’s a rigged system, the debates?
PRIEBUS: No, listen, I don’t know about whether the commission is rigged. I just think there’s a lot of flaws with these — with this commission. They are working hard. I’m not taking anything away from them. It’s not easy. I know that. I have been through thick and thin with these debates, as everyone understands. But there’s no reason why there wouldn’t be a give-and-take. And, by the way, I think there will be a give-and-take. And what we’re saying is, having a debate on a Sunday night or a Monday night is not the ideal time. And we should revisit it.
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