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Republicans say they're quitting the 'biased' Commission on Presidential Debates

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 09: RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel speaks during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters on November 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump campaign and Republican Party officials continued to push theories of voter intimidation, fraud, and illegal votes but were unable to provide proof at the time of the press conference. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Rrepublican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Republicans "are going to find newer, better debate platforms to ensure that future nominees are not forced to go through the biased [Commission on Presidential Debates] in order to make their case to the American people."

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 sitting president.

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. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.