The chairwoman of the Republican Party warned that she would advise the GOP’s 2024 White House nominee to skip the presidential debates without numerous reforms from the commission that organizes them.
Ronna McDaniel, in a three-page letter sent Tuesday to the Commission on Presidential Debates, slammed the organizers of the 2020 debates for what she called ‘repeated missteps and partisan actions.’
‘The Republican Party needs assurances that the CPD will make meaningful reforms to the debate process by working with stakeholders to restore the faith and legitimacy it has lost. If not, as RNC Chairman, I will have no choice but to advise future Republican candidates against participating in CPD-hosted debates,’ she wrote.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told Commission on Presidential Debates she would advise the 2024 Republican nominee to not attend without changes
McDaniel listed several grievances against the bipartisan commissions that organizes the three presidential debates and single vice presidential debate.
Many of them echoed the litany of complaints President Donald Trump had in last year’s presidential election, including the decision to turn the second presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 15, into a virtual event due to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump ultimately skipped the debate and held a town hall with NBC News instead while Democratic nominee Joe Biden conducted a town hall on ABC News.
Trump has not said whether or not he will seek another term in 2024.
McDaniel also slammed the commission for holding the first debate after early voting began in eight states and absentee voting began 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 plexiglass shield organizers wanted to put on stage for the October 22 debate, calling it an ‘amateur error that nearly derailed the debate itself.’
She claimed that during the debate walkthrough, ‘thanks to his background in television, the president realized that the candidates would see only their reflections once the stage was lit and the debate began. Had it not been caught by the President of the United States, the CPD’s unforced error would have caused a surprising and awkward distraction for both candidates once the cameras started to roll.’
The commission wanted to install the plexiglass as Trump was just recovering from his COVID infection. Additionally, the president repeatedly refused to wear a face mask. And several Trump staffers either got the virus or were in quarantine due to possible infection after Trump was diagnosed.
The glass was removed after both presidential campaigns confirmed 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 quarantined on Air Force One on the ride back from the debate site over worries she had the virus.
McDaniel also complained about the commission’s original choice for a debate host: C-SPAN’s Steve Scully who was later revealed to have a summer internship with then Sen. Biden when he was 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 noticed, Scully claimed his account was hacked. He later admitted to lying about the hacking. C-SPAN suspended him but he has since returned to the network.
‘It should be obvious, for instance, that no person should serve as a moderator who previously worked for one of the candidates,’ McDaniel wrote.
Trump had threatened to boycott the debates during the campaign amid worries about which journalists would be selected as moderators. He was reported to be worried about being ‘fact checked’ during the proceedings. He railed against the debates as ‘biased’ when he was on the campaign trail.
The GOP chairwoman additionally charged the debate’s board with being filled with partisans. The 10-member board has members of both parties but some of the Republicans had criticized Trump.
President Donald Trump repeatedly complained about the debate format and worried about the choices of moderators during the campaign – above the two contenders face off at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020
Many of the changes to debate format were put into place due to the COVID pandemic; above Melania Trump, Donald Trump and Joe Biden at the final presidential debate on Oct. 22, 2020
The reforms she demanded included term limits for the board, a code of conduct, committing to one debate before early voting begins, establishing criteria for debate moderators and a code of conduct for moderators.
She also demanded that if any moderator violated the code of conduct the penalties should include ‘suspending their employer network from participating in future debates.’
She asked for a response from the commission by July 31.