- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 31, 2016

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday that he is standing firm with the party’s presidential nominee in opposition to a debate schedule that competes with the National Football League.

Republican nominee Donald Trump objected to the schedule, which sets debates at the same time as a Monday Night Football game and two Sunday game day slots, because it would limit viewership.

“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,” Mr. Priebus said on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

Similar concerns were raised during the Democratic presidential primaries, when backers of Sen. Bernard Sanders accused the party of setting debates at times when fewer people would watch in an effort to help Hillary Clinton, who is now the nominee.

Mr. Trump repeated the claim in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” saying Mrs. Clinton wants to debate “like she did with Bernie Sanders, where they were on Saturday nights when nobody’s home.”

Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort said the campaign plans to meet with the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates about the schedule, which was set last September.

“We’re just saying our position is we want the maximum audience participation,” Mr. Manafort said in an interview on “Face the Nation.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates said in a statement Sunday that it did not consult with either political party in setting the dates and added that it is simply “impossible” to avoid all sporting events.

“As a point of reference, in a four-year period, there are four general election debates (three presidential and one vice presidential), and approximately 1,000 NFL games,” the commission wrote.

The Democratic candidates also denied Mr. Trump’s charges, with vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine saying he’s “mystified” by such a “bizarre” claim.

“Is Donald Trump complaining that the framers of the Constitution put the election in the NFL season?” he asked incredulously while campaigning in Ohio.

Mrs. Clinton told reporters that “I’m going to be there, that’s all I have to say.”

On Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” Mr. Priebus said he did not understand the reasoning behind the schedule.

“There is a massive national interest,” he said. “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,” said Mr. Priebus.

The debates are set for Sept. 26, Oct. 9 and Oct. 16; the first of those dates being a Monday and the other two being Sundays.

Mr. Priebus said the final schedule should be up to the nominees.

“But certainly, the RNC is going to be involved in supporting our nominee and his position on this,” the RNC chairman said. “My personal view is that we need to 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.”

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