ABC News’ Ron Claiborne and Z. Byron Wolf report: Rep. Tom Tancredo withdrew Thursday from the September 27th PBS sponsored debate on minority issues, according to a representative of Tavis Smiley, who will act as moderator. Tancredo spokesman Alan Moore cited poor attendance for the reason behind the Colorado Congressman’s withdrawal from the debate at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
"We felt that without the presence of Romney, Giuliani, or Thompson, this was not in our best interest to attend," said Moore. "Additionally, we felt it was necessary to stay focused in building our organization in Iowa and New Hampshire and are spending as much time as possible doing so."
As of now, missing will be Tancredo, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson. That leaves Keyes, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback and Ron Paul.
Newt Gingrich and Jack Kemp sharply criticized the leading candidates for missing this debate, whose panel will consist of three black and Latino reporters. They said the candidates were essentially not reaching out to minority voters.
"What are we going to do, meet in a country club in the suburbs one day," said Kemp. Gingrich added that it was "an enormous error."
Tancredo was the only Republican to attend the annual NAACP convention in Detroit this summer. In fact, the lone GOP candidate received a standing ovation from delegates at the political forum. Likewise, when Univision, the Spanish-language network, tried to hold a GOP debate earlier this month, only McCain accepted.
The four leading Republican candidates have cited scheduling conflicts for missing the Sept. 27th debate. Smiley’s representatives said it was hard to believe they could not have found time for this debate given that they were first invited last March and have been in on-going discussions about it over the past months.