In a move some fear may foreshadow him skipping the debates, Donald Trump took aim at the nonpartisan debate schedule that was announced back in 2015. Speaking to ABC News, Trump was “fine” with the amount of three debates, but he disliked the fact that they were airing opposite NFL games.
“I’ll tell you what I don’t like. It’s against two NFL games,” he said. “I got a letter from the NFL saying, ‘This is ridiculous.'”
However, the NFL said in a statement that they did not send Trump a letter regarding the debate dates. “While we’d obviously wish the debate commission could find another night, we did not send a letter to Trump.”
Debates in 2012 were also scheduled opposite NFL games.
Trump also falsely said that the Clinton campaign and Democrats were coordinating this effort against him. He tweeted, “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!”
The debate schedule is made by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, a group made up of Democrats and Republicans. While campaigns often engage in numerous negotiations with the Commission, the dates are set a year in advance, before the nominees are known.
Trump also alluded to the allegations that the Democratic National Committee scheduled primary debates on the weekends in order to benefit Clinton by having less viewers. The second presidential debate is scheduled to air on a Sunday.
Republican National Committee chief spokesman Sean Spicer endorsed Trump’s criticism while speaking to CNN. He highlighted the fact that the Commission “announces the dates without consultation of the parties or the candidates.”
Spicer also said that just because the debate was set in advance with the campaigns knowing about this for months ahead of time, that “doesn’t mean it’s a good system.”
“You look at the debates being on major NFL nights and you wonder why people are upset about that? This was a dumb idea and should be revisited.”
Some have questioned whether Trump will engage in the debates or if he will drop out. Another possibility about Trump bringing up this criticism is his love of ratings. Trump, a former television host, often brings up ratings as an indication of support. He regularly praises hosts that he likes by saying they have high ratings while saying that unfavorable hosts have low or no ratings. Trump also tweeted three times on Saturday about the ratings for the Republican National Convention, including how ratings for his acceptance speech were higher than Clinton’s. NFL games are among the highest rated programs on television and Trump may be fearing the potential impact those games would have on his ratings.