The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced Friday it will allow its presidential candidates to participate in debates it has not sanctioned. 

The RNC’s move follows ABC News and CNN’s separate announcements on Thursday revealing the networks would host debates in January that are not sanctioned by the RNC, calling into question a pledge that candidates signed restricting them from participating in debates the RNC had not scheduled. 

Under the now-lifted restriction, those who participated in unsanctioned debates would be barred from competing in future RNC-sanctioned debates. 

“It is now time for Republican primary voters to decide who will be our next President and candidates are free to use any forum or format to communicate to voters as they see fit,” read an official statement from the RNC shared with Breitbart News via email on Friday.

The statement also touts the four debates the RNC has had and emphasized that it has no further debates scheduled in January. 

“We have held four successful debates across the country with the most conservative partners in the history of a Republican primary. We have no RNC debates scheduled in January and any debates currently scheduled are not affiliated with the RNC,” it adds. 

Several candidates still in the field, including Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), or their campaigns criticized the exclusivity pledge in recent months. 

DeSantis’s campaign manager, James Uthmeier, told RealClearPolitics it was “a little bit odd” that “the RNC would suddenly feel threatened by that event when it has happened in so many prior races.”

Ramaswamy, in early October, complained he was unable to partake in a one-on-one debate with Christie.

“This is what a brokered and rigged nomination process looks like. I disagree like hell with @GovChristie, but when they asked me to face off with him, I said I’d be a man and do it – before the RNC intervened to cut it off,” he wrote in a post on X. 

Christie wrote the same day that “When the RNC stops conversations between candidates from happening that is real cause for concern.”

CNN is hosting two debates in January, with the first slated for January 10 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, ahead of the January 15 Iowa Caucuses. The second CNN debate is at Saint Anselm’s College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, on January 21 – days before the New Hampshire primary. 

In its announcement, CNN forecasted that the RNC would lift its exclusivity pledge this week.

ABC News also revealed Thursday it would host a lone New Hampshire debate, sanctioned by the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, on January 18 at Saint Anselm’s campus in Manchester. WMUR, which broadcasts ABC content, will partner with ABC News for the debate. 

Former President Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, has not participated in a debate to this point and has said he would not debate in the primary.