The Democratic National Committee (DNC) sent a letter to qualifying campaigns ahead of its third presidential primary debate, warning the Democratic presidential candidates not to use vulgar language while on the debate stage.
“We wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that, as the debate will air on the ABC broadcast network, we are governed by Federal Communication Commission indecency rules,” the DNC wrote in a letter obtained by Axios. “We will not be broadcasting on any delay, so there will be no opportunity to edit out foul language. Candidates should therefore avoid cursing or expletives in accordance with federal law and FCC guidelines.”
The letter comes as former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) has been receiving attention for the uptick in curse words that he has been espousing while on the campaign trail.
The failed Texas U.S. Senate candidate first made headlines with his vulgar language while conceding the statewide race to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as part of the 2018 midterm election cycle.
“All of you showing the country how you do this — I am so f***ing proud of you guys,” O’Rourke told the crowd in November. While he received wild cheers at the time, he later swore that he would no longer curse after announcing his bid for the presidency.
The pledge, however, did not last long.
In the aftermath of a deadly shooting in El Paso, Texas, O’Rourke was asked by reporters if it was possible for President Donald Trump to do anything “to make this better.”
“Um, what do you think? You know the s**t he’s been saying,” O’Rourke replied. “He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know. Like, members of the press — what the f***? It’s these questions that you know the answers to, I mean, connect the dots.”
The aggressive response was considered by many to be a testament to his authenticity. The Houston Chronicle praised the vulgarity, arguing that it is a human moment “more telling than a season of advertisements.”
“Is that language presidential? Not normally. It certainly isn’t the normal fare for an editorial page in the Sunday paper, either, with or without the asterisks,” the Chronicle wrote.”But it struck us as so unscripted, so unexpected, that its offense was somehow washed away.”
O’Rourke’s campaign seemingly noticed the attention-grabbing language and, by September, the Democratic presidential hopeful was selling “This is f***ed up” t-shirts as a nod to his own response after another deadly shooting outside of Odessa, Texas.
The DNC is preparing for its third presidential primary debate, which will be held on September 12 in Houston, Texas. Because of the relatively high threshold to qualify, only 10 of the candidates in the crowded Democratic primary field were able to qualify.
Accordingly, the organization faced blowback for the high barrier to entry to appear on the debate stage — especially from many of the candidates who fell short of receiving an invitation.
“The DNC is stifling debate at a time when we need it the most,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) said during the DNC’s annual summer meeting. “We’re rewarding celebrity candidates with millions of Twitter followers, billionaires who buy their way onto the debate stage, and candidates who have been running for president for years.”
Bennet’s remarks came the same day that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) campaign criticized the DNC for abdicating its responsibility to “facilitate more conversations.”