In 1987, the Commission on Presidential Debates was established jointly by
the Democratic and Republican parties to ensure that debates between the
leading candidates for the President of the United States were a permanent
part of the electoral process.
Now, the Republican National Committee has voted unanimously to leave the
CPD, ending more than three decades of bipartisan civic cooperation.
"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," Republican National
Committee (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," McDaniel continued.
The CPD did not immediately comment on the RNC's decision.
In January, when the RNC previewed its criticisms and announced it was
considering withdrawal, the commission emphasized its non-partisanship and
said in a statement that its "plans for 2024 will be based on fairness,
neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about
the candidates and the issues."
For at least the last decade, debate moderators — prominent journalists
selected by the commission — have drawn intense scrutiny from pundits and
candidates alike for their performances in a difficult job.
Democrats were irritated with the commission in 2012 during President
Barack Obama's reelection. They saw moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS NewsHour,
who had long moderated presidential debates, as letting Republican nominee
Mitt Romney run roughshod over the ground rules, the moderator and the
There were complaints from Republicans later in those debates about
moderator Candy Crowley, then of CNN, correcting something Romney said.
Donald Trump, whose bombastic presence on the debate stage was a fixture
of both the 2016 and 2020 campaign cycles, often lambasted moderators on
Twitter after the debates.
His perceived unfair treatment in the debates drew criticism from the
Republican National Committee which culminated in Thursday's withdrawal.
NPR's Domenico Montanaro contributed reporting.