The RNC’s Presidential Debates Committee has voted unanimously that the RNC will no longer work with the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). Debates are an important part of the democratic process, but this outdated organization has had a monopoly on organizing general election presidential debates and, for far too long, has shown clear bias against Republican candidates. We are not walking away from debates. We are walking away from the CPD.
It didn’t have to be this way. Over the past year, we have attempted to work with the CPD to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates going forward: hosting debates before voting begins, selecting balanced and unbiased moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage, and prohibiting board members from publicly disparaging nominees. A guarantee that they would fix these issues would have solved the problem, but they refused to do that. Now, we are officially initiating the process of changing the Republican Party’s rules to ensure that our future candidates are not forced to go through the biased CPD in order to make their case to the American people on the debate stage. It’s time for new, unbiased, modern debate platforms to emerge.
The CPD has repeatedly chosen debate moderators who exhibit clear bias towards Republican candidates. Steve Scully, who was chosen by the CPD to moderate a 2020 debate between President Trump and Joe Biden, was literally once an intern for Joe Biden. It came as little surprise to Republicans when Mr. Scully accidentally revealed prior to the debate that he was seeking advice on how to attack President Trump. In 2012, CNN anchor Candy Crowley interjected herself in the debate and falsely accused our nominee of lying. CNN’s Anderson Cooper even hosted a debate in 2016. These are just a few examples of individuals chosen by the CPD to moderate debates who we believed would be biased and later showed it in action on the debate stage. The request to the CPD was simple: commit to selecting debate moderators who are not partisan. At the very least, commit to choosing debate moderators who have not previously worked for one of the candidates debating onstage.
Additionally, we requested the CPD hold at least one debate before the start of Early Voting. In fact, twenty-six states had begun absentee voting and uniformed military and overseas voting in all fifty states prior to the first general election debate of 2020. For voters who aren’t glued to the daily back and forth of politics, debates may be the only opportunity to gather information about America’s presidential candidates. It makes no sense to hold debates after so many Americans have already cast their vote.
Unfortunately, none of this bias is surprising: the CPD’s board members have consistently shown that they oppose the Republican Party and its candidate. Most recently, six out of the CPD’s ten board members have gone on the record saying disparaging things about the Republican nominee. If this is the leadership behind the debates, it is no wonder Republican candidates are treated unfairly onstage.
The reason this matters now is because the Republican primary election won’t conclude until late summer of 2024 – just weeks before debates begin. If the CPD refuses to work with us and waits until the last minute to refuse our simple and commonsense requests, it will be too late for our candidate to secure changes to the process. It will be too late to engage with another group to host debates. This is what a total monopoly looks like.
To date, however, the CPD has been completely unwilling to work with the Republican Party – which represents 74 million voters – and has consistently acted to protect their stranglehold on presidential debates without any attempt at reform. As a result, we will amend the Rules of the Republican Party to ensure our nominee does not participate in CPD-sponsored debates and will begin looking for acceptable alternatives.
Our optimistic, conservative Republican message resonates with Americans. That’s why many of our nation’s most powerful institutions – like Big Tech, academia, and some legacy media outlets – work overtime to ensure that we aren’t given a level playing field. Unfortunately, the CPD has joined in that effort. Republicans will no longer accept such bias and will work to find new, unbiased, modern debate platforms because the American people deserve nothing less than basic fairness.
Ronna McDaniel is the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee (RNC).