RNC threatens to 'prohibit' future nominees from participating in commission-run debates

The move follows longstanding criticisms by Republicans.

January 13, 2022, 3:11 PM

The Republican National Committee says it plans to make a major change heading into the 2024 election that would "prohibit" Republican nominees from participating in debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, according to a letter sent by the RNC and obtained by ABC News.

The move follows longstanding criticisms from Republicans over the commission's handling of presidential debates, culminating in former President Donald Trump skipping the second out of three originally scheduled debates in the 2020 election against President Joe Biden. RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel called for changes be made to the commission last June.

The letter, dated Thursday and signed by McDaniel, outlines the communication between the RNC and CPD over the past year regarding concerns about the CPD's ability to "provide a fair and impartial forum for presidential debates, and proposing reforms to address these concerns."

The news was first reported by The New York Times.

The RNC said the CPD must address its "failures" if the organization wishes to have creditability within the Republican Party, including adopting term limits for its board of directors, committing to holding at least one debate before the start of early voting and establishing transparent criteria for selecting debate moderators.

Frank Fahrenkopf, chairman of the CPD, told ABC News he met with the RNC and tried to convey that the commission doesn't work with parties, only candidates.

"They just want to take over everything and we told them that we don't deal with the political parties, we never have," Fahrenkopf said. "We have nothing to do with the Republican, Democratic party or any other political party. We work only with those candidates for president and vice president who meet the requirements that we put out a year or so ahead of time."

The CPD, established in 1987 to ensure general election debates for president and vice president are part of the electoral process, said its handling of he 2024 debates "will be based on fairness, neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues."

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