The next presidential debates could look a little lopsided.
The Republican National Committee has unanimously voted to withdraw from the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has officially been sponsoring and producing general election presidential debates since 1987.
In a statement, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said, “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 common sense 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.”
Newton Minow, who retired from the board of the Commission on Presidential Debates last Thursday after 49 debates, says the news was “disappointing.”
“Our own co-chairman (of the debate commission) is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee,” Minow said. “There are many Republicans, probably more than Democrats and independents, on the commission. We’ve been at it for decades and decades and this is the first time any candidate of any party, or any independents, has had any problem.”
On top of moving the debates earlier so as not to coincide with early voting, and choosing a moderator that never worked for any of the candidates on stage, Minow also says that the RNC has indicated they want to have a say in who moderates the debate.
“What the RNC wants is to pick the moderators,” Minow said. “They have indicated that it’s what they want to do and that is not going to be something fair to the American public … Republicans also do not want journalists to be moderators. They’re somehow afraid of journalists.”
Minow says former President Donald Trump is likely behind the party’s decision.
“I can only tell you that after 49 debates, it has only been his dissatisfaction that has caused this whole thing,” Minow added.
Still, he doesn’t think this is the “final word on this.”
“My own judgment is that this will not be the final word on this,” Minow said. “Debates will go ahead. Decisions whether or not to participate should not be made by a party, but by individual candidates. I don’t think the individual candidates will like the idea that perhaps an empty chair will represent them.”
Minow is also an attorney, former chairman of the FCC under President John F. Kennedy, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a member emeritus of the WTTW Board.