The Republican Party chairman warned that she would advise the 2024 candidate for the White House to skip presidential debates without numerous reforms from the committee she organizes.
Ronna McDaniel, in a three-page letter sent to the Commission on Presidential Debates on Tuesday, criticized the organizers of the 2020 debates for what she called “repeated missteps and partisan actions.”
The Republican Party needs assurances that the CPD will implement meaningful reforms in the debate process by working with stakeholders to restore lost confidence and legitimacy. If not, as chair of the RNC, I have no choice but to discourage future Republican candidates from participating in CPD-organized debates,” she wrote.
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel told the Commission on Presidential Debates she would advise 2024 Republican nominee not to attend without changes
McDaniel listed several grievances against the bipartisan committees that organize the three presidential debates and the single vice presidential debate.
Many of them echoed the litany of complaints President Donald Trump had during last year’s presidential election, including the decision to turn the second presidential debate, scheduled for October 15, into a virtual event due to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump ultimately skipped the debate and instead held a town hall with NBC News, while Democratic candidate Joe Biden ran a town hall on ABC News.
Trump has not said whether he will seek another term in 2024.
McDaniel also criticized the committee for holding the first debate after early voting began in eight states and absentee voting in 26 states. Many states extended their voting deadlines last year to give people more time to vote because of the COVID pandemic.
And she complained about a Plexiglas shield that organizers wanted to put on the podium for the October 22 debate, calling it an “amateur mistake that nearly derailed the debate itself.”
She claimed that during the debate walkthrough, the president realized “thanks to his television background, the candidates would not see their reflections until once the podium was lit and the debate began.” If the President of the United States hadn’t noticed, the CPD’s casual mistake would have provided a surprising and uncomfortable distraction for both candidates as soon as the cameras started rolling.”
The committee wanted to put the plexiglass in because Trump was just recovering from his COVID infection. In addition, the president repeatedly refused to wear a face mask. And several Trump staffers got the virus or were quarantined because of a possible infection after Trump was diagnosed.
The glass was removed after both presidential campaigns confirmed that their candidates had tested negative for COVID that day.
Trump tested positive for COVID shortly after the first presidential debate. His top adviser Hope Hicks reportedly went into quarantine on Air Force One on the drive back from the debate site over concerns she had the virus.
McDaniel also complained about the committee’s original choice of debate host: Steve Scully of C-SPAN, who was later revealed to have had a summer internship with then-Senator Biden while in college.
Trump attacked Scully as a biased choice. Scully then tweeted to former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci asking if he should respond. When that tweet was spotted, Scully claimed his account had been hacked. He later admitted to lying about the hacking. C-SPAN suspended him, but he has since returned to the network.
“For example, it should be clear that no one may serve as a moderator who has previously worked for any of the candidates,” McDaniel wrote.
Trump had threatened to boycott campaign debates over concerns over which journalists would be selected as moderators. He was said to be concerned that he would be “fact checked” during the proceedings. He railed against the debates as “biased” when he was on the campaign trail.
The chairman of the GOP also accused the board of being filled with partisans. The 10-member board has members from both parties, but some Republicans have criticized Trump.
President Donald Trump repeatedly complained about the debate format and was concerned about moderator choices during the campaign – the two contenders will face each other on Thursday, October 22, 2020 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, US
Many of the debate format changes have been made due to the COVID pandemic; above Melania Trump, Donald Trump and Joe Biden during the last presidential debate on October 22, 2020
The reforms she demanded included term limits for the board, a code of conduct, establishing one debate before the early vote, establishing criteria for debate moderators, and a code of conduct for moderators.
She also demanded that if a moderator violated the code of conduct, the sanctions should include “suspending their employer network from participating in future debates.”
She requested a response from the committee by July 31.