RNC Votes to Withdraw From Commission on Presidential Debates

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
April 14, 2022 Updated: April 14, 2022

The Republican National Committee (RNC) voted unanimously Thursday to withdraw from the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which governs the general election debates.

In a statement, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the commission 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.”

In a tweet, McDaniel added that the GOP is “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.”

This vote comes months after the GOP in a letter to urge its candidates to not participate in televised debates unless the commission adopts major reforms.

In the letter, McDaniel accused the commission of partisanship and “significant errors” in its organization of the 2020 presidential debates between then-President Donald Trump and then-presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The commission’s “repeated missteps and the partisan actions of its Board Members make clear that the organization no longer provides the fair and impartial forum for presidential debates which the law requires and the American people deserve,” McDaniel wrote.

The reforms McDaniel has advocated for include term limits for the CPD’s board of directors, adopting a “code of conduct” that would prevent staff from making public comments for or against any candidate, committing to hosting at least one debate before the start of early voting, and publicly disclosing criteria for moderator selection.

The CPD is a nonprofit that was established in 1987 and has since sponsored and produced presidential debates in all nine subsequent election cycles.

The commission received criticism from Trump during the 2020 debates for its selection of moderators, muting of microphones to keep candidates from interrupting one another during the debate, and holding a virtual debate as a precaution against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

The Trump campaign also criticized the selection of C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully to moderate what would have been the second debate in the 2020 race. Trump called into question Scully’s political bias when it was revealed he had worked for Biden decades earlier as an intern while Biden was serving in the U.S. Senate.

Trump, ultimately, didn’t agree to the second debate as it was to be held virtually, and Scully was placed on administrative leave by C-SPAN after lying about reaching out to former Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci on Twitter.

The commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zachery Stieber and Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.