Trump unhappy with Clinton debate dates

  • 01/08/2016
Donald Trump (Reuters)
Donald Trump (Reuters)

US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says he's unhappy with the dates set for his televised debates with White House rival Hillary Clinton, putting him at odds with an independent commission that set the calendar almost a year ago.

The dates for the three debates ahead of the presidential election "will serve the American public well," the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates said in a statement on Sunday, noting they were set a year in advance.

The commission was responding to complaints from Trump and other Republicans that the debate dates should be changed because of conflicts with televised National Football League games.

"I think two of the three are against the NFL, so I'm not thrilled with that," Trump said in an interview with ABC.

The commission, established in 1987 to organise and manage the presidential debates, said it is impossible to avoid all sporting events when scheduling the debates and it has never rescheduled because of such conflicts.

Trump, who tweeted on Friday that Clinton was "trying to rig the debates" so that fewer people would watch, suggested in the ABC interview that the former secretary of state wanted the debates to be held "when nobody's home" to watch.

Newt Gingrich, a Trump adviser and former speaker of the US House of Representatives, tweeted that the scheduling "makes me think the commission is rigged to help hide Hillary from the voters."

The Clinton campaign declined comment, and the Democratic National Committee was not immediately available for comment.

David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said he thought Trump might be worried that his supporters would watch football instead.

When asked directly whether Trump would participate in the debates, his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, said the Republican candidate "wants to participate" but also seeks "the maximum audience."

"So we're going to sit down with the commission in the next week or so and we're going to start talking to them and we want to make sure we have a broad audience, understanding, watching the debates," Manafort told CBS.

Reince Preibus, the head of the Republican National Committee, said the debates would get more viewers if they were on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights.

"We're going to be working with the commission and what they're putting together," Preibus said on CBS. "We're not going to agree with anything that our nominee doesn't agree with."

Trump also told ABC the he'd received a letter from the NFL saying the debate dates were "ridiculous."

But Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the NFL, said there was no such letter.