RFK Jr. Responds to Being Excluded From Trump, Biden Debates: ‘Undermines Democracy’

Mr. Kennedy said in a post on X that ‘keeping viable candidates off the debate stage undermines democracy.’
RFK Jr. Responds to Being Excluded From Trump, Biden Debates: ‘Undermines Democracy’
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at an election event in Brooklyn; N.Y.; on May 1; 2024. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)
Jeff Louderback

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will meet on stage for two debates in June and September, and neither will include independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

On June 27, the presumptive Democrat and Republican nominees will participate in the earliest presidential debate in televised history on CNN, the outlet confirmed in a May 15 press release.

The current and former presidents will also meet for a Sept. 10 debate televised by ABC.

In a May 15 letter to the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates, President Biden’s campaign said the president would not participate in the commission’s planned fall debates, citing the preference for earlier dates.

President Trump’s campaign also sent a letter to the commission last month stating it would like earlier debates as well.

President Biden’s campaign proposed excluding third-party candidates from the debates.

According to the commission’s rules, third-party candidates can qualify for the debates if they gain enough ballot access to win 270 Electoral College votes and poll 15 percent or higher in select national polls.

The commission will determine who is eligible to participate in its debates after Labor Day.

Mr. Kennedy, who is running as an independent but has gained ballot access in some states under the We The People party he formed and through other third parties, is officially on the ballot in California, Delaware, Michigan, and Utah.

The campaign collected enough signatures for ballot access in Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nebraska, North Carolina, Nevada, and Texas.

At a voter rally in Austin, Texas, on May 13, Mr. Kennedy told supporters that the campaign has also gathered enough signatures to appear on the New York ballot, but a formal announcement has yet to be made.

Mr. Kennedy has challenged President Biden and President Trump to debates multiple times.

On May 15, he expressed his dismay at not being included in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“Presidents Trump and Biden are colluding to lock America into a head-to-head match-up that 70 percent say they do not want. They are trying to exclude me from their debate because they are afraid I would win,” Mr. Kennedy wrote.

“Keeping viable candidates off the debate stage undermines democracy. Forty-three percent of Americans identify as independents.

“If Americans are ever going to escape the hammerlock of the two-party system, now is the time to do it.

“These are the two most unpopular candidates in living memory.

“By excluding me from the stage, Presidents Biden and Trump seek to avoid discussion of their eight years of mutual failure including deficits, wars, lockdowns, chronic disease, and inflation.”

CNN listed its rules for candidates to qualify for the June 27 debate in a May 15 press release.

A candidate’s name must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency by the June 20 debate eligibility deadline, the outlet reported.

Candidates must get “at least 15 percent in four separate national polls of registered or likely voters that meet CNN’s standards for reporting,” according to the press release.

CNN, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, Marquette University Law School, Monmouth University, NBC News, New York Times/Siena College, NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist College, Quinnipiac University, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post are the surveys that CNN says meet their editorial standards and will be considered for debate eligibility.

The window to determine eligibility for the June 27 debate opened on March 13 and closes on June 20, the press release stated.

Mr. Kennedy entered the 2024 presidential race in April 2023, when he declared his intent to challenge President Biden for the Democratic Party nomination.

Claiming that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was “rigging the primary” and not allowing candidates to oppose President Biden, Mr. Kennedy chose to run as an independent last October.

Since making that announcement, Mr. Kennedy has focused on gaining ballot access in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, a feat he told The Epoch Times he expects to achieve in July.

The DNC and pro-Biden groups have directed significant resources to thwart Mr. Kennedy’s bid to get on the ballot in all states and the District of Columbia.

In recent weeks, President Trump and his campaign have ramped up verbal attacks on Mr. Kennedy, calling him the “most radical, left candidate” in the race.

President Biden has said that he only wants to debate candidates who have a statistical chance of winning the election, giving a hint that he is not interested in taking the stage with Mr. Kennedy.

President Trump has said that Mr. Kennedy needs to see better poll numbers before the two would meet in a debate.

As of May 15, the RealClear Polling average of surveys had President Trump with 41.4 percent support, President Biden at 38.6 percent, Mr. Kennedy at 10.8 percent, independent Cornel West at 2 percent, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein at 1.5 percent in a five-way race.

Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Trump are scheduled to speak at the Libertarian Party’s national convention later this month in Washington.

Mr. Kennedy is scheduled to speak on May 24, while President Trump is slated to make his address on May 25.

(Left) President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, N.C., on May 2, 2024. (Right) and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Waukesha, Wis., on May 1, 2024. (AP Photo)
(Left) President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, N.C., on May 2, 2024. (Right) and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Waukesha, Wis., on May 1, 2024. (AP Photo)

In an open letter on X, formerly known as Twitter, Mr. Kennedy referenced the  Zogby Strategies poll that shows that he would defeat the former president, 270–268, in Electoral College votes in a head-to-head matchup.

Mr. Kennedy also mentioned CNN and Quinnipiac surveys that indicated he stood above the 15 percent minimum to gain a presence on stage in the presidential debates.

President Trump would decisively beat President Biden, 294–244, in a head-to-head race, according to the poll.

The study, which included more than 26,000 likely voters in 50 states, reported that Mr. Kennedy would rout President Biden, 367–171.

In the letter, Mr. Kennedy said former President Trump supporters are now supporting him because “they are upset that you blew up the deficit, shut down their businesses during Covid, and filled your administration with swamp creatures.”

Mr. Kennedy said the Libertarian convention is “perfect neutral territory” for a debate between the two candidates.

President Trump has not responded to that particular challenge, instead directing his words toward President Biden.

On Truth Social, President Trump wrote that it was his “great honor to accept the CNN Debate against Crooked Joe Biden, the WORST PRESIDENT in the History of the United States and a true Threat to Democracy.”

After the current and former president also agreed to accept the Sept. 10 debate on ABC News, President Biden posted on X.

“Trump says he’ll arrange his own transportation. I’ll bring my plane, too. I plan on keeping it for another four years.”

President Biden and President Trump have not mentioned Mr. Kennedy, Mr. West, or Ms. Stein in any social media exchanges regarding the two debates.

Jeff Louderback covers news and features on the White House and executive agencies for The Epoch Times. He also reports on Senate and House elections. A professional journalist since 1990, Jeff has a versatile background that includes covering news and politics, business, professional and college sports, and lifestyle topics for regional and national media outlets.
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