The Republican National Committee (RNC) voted on Thursday to withdraw from the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) and bar its presidential nominees from taking part in CPD debates.
The RNC’s vote comes after Republicans, most prominently former President Donald Trump, have accused the CPD of bias against the GOP in the structure of its debates.
The RNC held a meeting Thursday to reconsider how the party approaches presidential debates after the CPD, which has run presidential debates since 1988, failed to address a number of Republicans’ complaints with current debate practices. The RNC voted unanimously to leave the commission, as well as adopt its own resolution for its candidates to sign.
“Debates are an important part of the democratic process, and the RNC is committed to free and fair debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates is biased and has refused to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates including hosting debates before voting begins and selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage,” RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.
“Today, the RNC voted to withdraw from the biased CPD, and we are going to find newer, better debate platforms to ensure that future nominees are not forced to go through the biased CPD in order to make their case to the American people,” she said.
The resolution stipulates that all RNC candidates must agree in writing to participate in only sanctioned debates or risk being shut out by the GOP. “Any presidential primary candidate who does not agree in writing, or who participates in any debate that is not a sanctioned debate, shall not be eligible to participate in any further sanctioned debates,” the resolution says in part, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The RNC pointed to an op-ed McDaniel wrote in Breitbart when explaining the committee’s decision to pull out of the CPD. In it, the chairwoman pointed specifically to the CPD’s refusal to address concerns about its debate moderators and refusal to hold a debate before early voting began in 2020. McDaniel wrote:
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.