WASHINGTON — Donald Trump is wrong when he says the presidential debates are rigged.
Maybe Trump doesn’t care about facts. But perhaps you do.
“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!” Trump said in a July 29 tweet.
If only Trump could master Google as well as he has Twitter. It would take just a few minutes to get up to speed with how presidential debates are organized.
Primary debates are under the purview of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee.
The national political parties broker deals with various news outlets and the campaigns. Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley were unhappy with the DNC debate schedule; Republicans had about twice the number of debates.
Sanders alleged the DNC was trying to help Clinton with fewer debates, with some scheduled on nights with a likely smaller viewership. That’s the Trump reference in his tweet.
What happened in the primary has nothing to do with the upcoming presidential debates.
There is an entirely different system for the presidential and vice presidential debates.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates was founded in 1987. The group has sponsored presidential debates since the 1988 election.
Its leadership is bipartisan. A Democrat and a Republican.
The GOP co-chair, and commission co-founder, is Republican Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., a former RNC chair who served in the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan was in the White House.
The Democratic co-chair is Mike McCurry, who was President Bill Clinton’s press secretary from 1993 to 1995.
The board is a mix of Republicans and Democrats. For example, there is former Sen. John Danforth, a Missouri Republican, and Chicago lawyer Newton Minow, senior counsel at Sidley Austin LLP who served as FCC chair under President John F. Kennedy.
The dates for the 2016 presidential debates were announced on Sept. 23, 2015, when Trump was not seen as viable — and when the National Football League schedule for 2016 was not set.
The first presidential debate is in a few weeks, on Sept. 26 at Hofstra University, near New York City. That’s the same night of a “Monday Night Football” game.
The one vice presidential debate is on Oct. 4 at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, the home state of Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine.
The second presidential debate is on Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, an evening with a “Sunday Night Football” game.
The last presidential debate is on Oct. 19 at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
After Trump complained that two debates would be on NFL nights, the commission noted that in a four-year period there are about 1,000 NFL games and four White House debates.
The commission said in a statement that it started work “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. 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.”
The folks with the biggest complaints against the commission are third-party candidates who have to reach a 15 percent polling threshold to be included.
Trump did well enough in the primary debates because he had to fill only a few minutes of time in each one, sharing the stage with a dozen or so rivals. He got by on sound bites and insults. Clinton one-on-one will be challenging.
At least as good as an NFL game.