The Republican National Committee on Thursday threatened to bar its presidential nominees from participating in presidential debates if the organization that sponsors the general election showdowns refused to change its partisan ways.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel leveled the threat over concerns about biased debate moderators and partisan comments from members of the Commission on Presidential Debates.
In a letter to the commission, Mrs. McDaniel said GOP voters have lost faith in the organization and demand “commonsense reforms that would restore trust in the debates process.”
“So long as the CPD appears intent on stonewalling the meaningful reforms necessary to restore its credibility with the Republican Party as a fair and nonpartisan actor, the RNC will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere,” Mrs. McDaniel said. “Accordingly, the RNC will initiate the process of amending the Rules of the Republican Party at our upcoming Winter Meeting to prohibit future Republican nominees from participating in CPD-sponsored debates.”
The commission, in response, said that it “deals directly with candidates for President and Vice President who qualify for participation in the CPD’s general election debates.”
“The CPD’s plans for 2024 will be based on fairness, neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues,” the commission said.
The RNC has called on the commission to adopt term limits for its board of directors, hold at least one debate before the start of early voting and establish new rules for debate moderators to ensure they are nonpartisan.
It also raised concerns about partisan comments from members of the commission.
“These proposals are common sense solutions for an organization whose unique, nonpartisan role in American elections requires it to stand above the political fray,” Mrs. McDaniel said.
The Commission on Presidential Debates largely flew under the radar before the 2020 election when then-President Trump accused the organization of being biased and favoring then-Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden.
The commission drew headlines when it decided Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden would have their microphones cut off in their second debate after they interrupted each other repeatedly in their first showdown.
The Trump campaign opposed the change.
The Trump campaign also raised concerns about C-SPAN host Steve Scully moderating a debate because he previously served as an intern for Mr. Biden and as a staffer for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Democrat.
The commission, however, ended up canceling the scheduled showdown after Mr. Trump declined to participate in a virtual debate, which was slated due to coronavirus concerns.
The CPD has sponsored debates in every presidential election since 1988 and is governed by an independent board of directors.
Their website says that since 1989 “no sitting officer of either major party has had any affiliation with the CPD, and the major parties have no role whatsoever in running the CPD or setting its policies.”
“The CPD is an independent organization,” the website says. “It is not controlled by any political party or outside organization, and it does not endorse, support, or oppose political candidates or parties. It receives no funding from the government or any political party, political action committee or candidate.”