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The Truth Behind RFK Jr. Not Making CNN Debate

Serious questions about corruption in the network’s candidate selection process.

by | Jun 25, 2024 | Articles, Good Reads, Media, Opinion

By Paul R. Brian

CNN recently announced that Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has not qualified for the upcoming presidential debate this Thursday (June 27) in Atlanta. According to CNN, RFK Jr. fell short of its poll requirements for the event, leaving it just between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump. For his part, RFK Jr. has called the move “undemocratic,” a “cowardly” and “un-American” maneuver against him. He’s even brought a complaint to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), saying CNN’s debate requirements break campaign finance law.

Is there any merit to RFK Jr.’s accusation?

Why Was RFK Jr. Cut from the Debate?

According to CNN’s rules for debate qualification, RFK Jr. had to hit 15% or more in four national-level accredited polls and have verified ballot access in enough states to potentially reach the 270 election-winning Electoral College votes. Because he hit 15% or more in only three national polls, and despite being on his way to satisfying the electoral vote ballot access requirement, RFK Jr. won’t be on the stage this week.

Digging deeper, however, it becomes clear how determined both the Trump and Biden campaigns were not to have RFK Jr. in the debate from the start, with both teams agreeing to participate only if the rules made it almost impossible for him to qualify. CNN hasn’t publicly disclosed the specifics of what it agreed to with the Trump and Biden teams, but it’s clear that the relatively early date of this debate set far too high a bar for RFK Jr. to meet.

The kicker is that Trump and Biden also technically fall short of CNN’s debate requirements, as Richard Winger of Ballot Access News pointed out:

“Trump and Biden aren’t currently on any state ballots because they haven’t even been nominated yet.”

What’s with the double standard? Fans of the independent candidate certainly see it as part of a concerted effort to block RFK Jr. from being presented onstage as a viable candidate or from being considered by swing voters who may dislike both Trump and Biden. Their conclusion is that both Biden and Trump see RFK Jr.’s potential spoiler status as a real problem.

Could RFK Jr. Play Spoiler in the Upcoming Election?

RFK Jr. has a real potential to tip the balance in this election, which is why both Trump and Biden may have a vested interest in minimizing his publicity and appearances on the national stage as much as possible. In May, RFK Jr. already accused CNN of working with Biden and Trump to lock him out of presidential debates.

It’s unlikely that the FEC is going to follow up on RFK Jr.’s complaint or go after the Trump or Biden campaign on this matter, but CNN isn’t doing anything to improve its tarnished reputation by engaging in backroom dealing with campaigns that may be perceived as dishonest by many Americans. As the third-party candidate, RFK Jr. is in an inevitably weaker position than Trump or Biden. He is inherently frozen out from many funding and institutional benefits of establishment political politics.

For his own part, RFK Jr. has suggested that the debates be taken to a new medium altogether.

Will Network Debates Be ‘X-ed’ Out?

A month ago, already complaining of being unfairly sidelined by how debate requirements were being set and interpreted, RFK Jr. said he’d prefer to do a presidential debate on the X platform (formerly Twitter) instead of on TV.

“X is where the debate should be. The new public square with 100x the audience of CNN. @realDonaldTrump, I know you’ve got the guts to do it. Do you want to call @POTUS or should I?”

X owner Elon Musk agreed to RFK Jr.’s call for an X debate although specifics have not yet been announced. The next debate after Atlanta will take place on Sept. 10 hosted by ABC News, and RFK Jr. has not qualified as of yet for that debate.

As we saw with the change of Tucker Carlson’s show from Fox News to being hosted directly on X, Musk’s platform has enormous reach and potential. RFK Jr.’s call for a debate on X has the potential to herald a new direction in politics: disintermediation, or the removal of the middleman. An increasing number of Americans want to see what’s going on directly rather than what’s curated or chosen by a TV network. Even for those who may strongly disagree with RFK Jr.’s views on a range of subjects, attempts by CNN to sideline such a prominent third-party candidate could, ironically, serve to raise his profile and perhaps increase his appeal.

Guest Author Paul R. Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer focused on geopolitics, culture, religion, and world news. His website is www.paulrbrian.com.

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