That’s what Donald Trump seems to think. In a tweet over the weekend the GOP nominee suggested that Democrats “are trying to rig the debates” much like they did against Bernie Sanders during the primary debates because two of them will be at the same time as major NFL games.
As usual, Hillary & the Dems are trying to rig the debates so 2 are up against major NFL games. Same as last time w/ Bernie. Unacceptable!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2016
The Commission on Presidential Debates has dismissed the accusation, saying in a statement that the scheduling process began more than a year ago to identify possible conflicts.
“The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) started working more than 18 months ago to identify religious and federal holidays, baseball league playoff games, NFL games, and other events in order to select the best nights for the 2016 debates,” the statement reads.
“It is impossible to avoid all sporting events, and there have been nights on which debates and games occurred in most election cycles. A debate has never been rescheduled as a result.”
This year, the debate on Sept. 26 will be held during a Monday night Falcons vs. the Saints game, while the Oct. 9 debate will air during a Sunday night Giants vs. Packers game.
“As a point of reference, in a four-year period, there are four general election debates … and approximately 1,000 NFL games."
Trump said Saturday that the football league complained in a letter to him about the debate schedule.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy acknowledged Saturday that the league would like at least one of the debates rescheduled but tweeted: "We did not send a letter to Mr Trump."
The issue follows criticism that the Democratic National Committee intentionally scheduled primary debates on a Saturday night to minimize audiences as a way of protecting frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
And recently leaked emails show that the DNC indeed intended to undermine the campaign of Clinton primary rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“You know, Hillary Clinton wants to be against the NFL,” Trump told ABC’s “This Week," "maybe like she did with Bernie Sanders, where they were on Saturday nights when nobody's home."
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort seemed to suggested on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the dates are still being negotiated.
“We're going to sit down with the commissioner and talk with them,” he said. “The DNC hack showed you that the Clinton campaign was working to schedule debates against Sanders which have the least possible viewing audience. ... So, I'm not sure what the dates are going to be, ultimately. … But we're not going to fall ploy to the Democrat -- to the Hillary Clinton ploy that she did against Bernie Sanders.”
Nevertheless, the Commission said they believe the 2016 debate schedule “will serve the American public well.”