It may have felt like a pipe dream for many Bernie Sanders supporters: a Bernie vs. Trump televised debate. But the possibility seemed to be getting closer and closer to becoming a reality when both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have expressed a willingness to debate each other before the California primary on June 7. Unfortunately, the dream didn’t last long. Trump said that he would participate if the event could raise $10 to $15 million for charity. Several companies stepped forward offering to make that donation, but then Trump said he was no longer interested. After you read this article, take our poll at the very end of the story and let us know if you think Trump and Sanders should have debated.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Trump Backed Out of the Debate, Saying It Would Be ‘Inappropriate’
After everyone got excited about the possibility of a debate, Trump backed out of the debate on Friday, saying it would be “inappropriate.” Some people wondered about that choice of words, since the presidential candidate has not seemed worried about what was appropriate or inappropriate before. In his statement, Trump said:
Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher… Likewise, the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues. Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders – and it would be an easy payday – I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
Some companies had already stepped forward, offering to pay $10 to $20 million to the charity of the candidates’ choice if they agreed to the debate.
On Wednesday, Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks, posted on Twitter that they had reached out to both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and offered to host a cross-partisan debate.
The offer came after Hillary Clinton turned down an invitation from Fox News to debate Bernie Sanders before the California primary. She had agreed in February to add four more debates with Sanders to the calendar. But her spokesman said that she was turning her attention to the general debate. In fact, Clinton had told CNN earlier that she would be the Democratic nominee.
Sanders supporters were angered by her presumption and by her backing out on a debate she had previously agreed to participate in. This is likely part of what prompted Uygur to issue his own invitation.
The invitation helped spark a national conversation about a Trump-Sanders debate. A Huffington Post columnist, Seth Abramson, had launched a Twitter poll two days before Uygur’s invitation asking if Sanders and Trump should debate. 87 percent said yes:
Abramson had written on this topic prior to Uygur’s invitation. This poll and Abramson’s story helped spark the national conversation about a Bernie-Trump debate.
2. Trump Had Said Earlier That He Would Debate Sanders if $10 Million of the TV Network’s Profit Would Go To Charity
Donald Trump was a guest on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live on Wednesday night. During his appearance, Kimmel asked Trump if he’d be open to debating Sanders, mentioning that Sanders was going to be on his show the next day and was wanting to know Trump’s answer. Trump said that he would, if the proceeds went to charity. He joked that if Sanders paid him (for charity) he would. But then he got more serious and said in response to Kimmel’s question that yes, if a network put up the money, he would debate Sanders.
You can watch that part of the interview here:
On Thursday, Trump addressed the question again in a news conference:
Trump clarified that he would only debate if $10 or $15 million raised from the debate would go to charity. He mentioned that he knows TV networks well, so that money could certainly be raised from the televised debate. He also mentioned that he’s already heard from some TV networks who are interested.
Misinformation had been circulating that Trump wanted Sanders to pay him $15 million for the debate. But as USA Today pointed out, Trump is wanting the money for charity to be raised from the TV network’s profit from the debate ratings. He was looking for a TV network that is OK with that arrangement and said that some had already contacted him.
Unfortunately, on Friday he backpedaled on his previous statements and decided against the debate after all.
A petition is circulating online asking Fox News to host a Sanders-Trump debate. You can sign the petition here.
3. Sanders Had Said That He Was Looking Forward to Debating Trump
Bernie Sanders wasted no time taking to Twitter and sharing his willingness to debate Trump after Trump’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel:
After Trump’s press conference, Sanders reiterated his interest:
This isn’t the first time that a Trump/Sanders debate was considered. Back in March, Fox considered a televised debate between Trump and Sanders. It was going to happen until Trump had to cancel due to scheduling conflicts, Huffington Post reported. On the Internet, this is already being called “The Debate of the Century.”
4. DNC Rules Don’t Seem to Prohibit This Debate, Since Sanders Has No More Debates Scheduled with Clinton
Many people have said online that Sanders can’t participate in a debate because it’s against DNC rules. But this doesn’t appear to be completely true anymore. According to a post made by Democrats.org in May 2015 about Democratic debates, any candidate who participates in a non-DNC sanctioned debate is simply no longer able to participate in any more DNC debates:
…this year the DNC will further manage the process by implementing an exclusivity requirement. Any candidate or debate sponsor wishing to participate in DNC debates, must agree to participate exclusively in the DNC-sanctioned process. Any violation would result in forfeiture of the ability to participate in the remainder of the debate process.”
If Sanders were to participate in a debate against Trump, it appears that he would simply “forfeit” his ability to participate in the “remainder of the debate process.” But since Clinton already backed out of the last debate with Sanders, it appears that he won’t be forfeiting anything at all.
5. Several People Came Forward Offering to Donate Millions to Charity in Order to Host the Debate
Several companies and individuals have stepped forward offering to foot the multi-million-dollar charity donation in order to host what some are calling “the debate of the century.”
The Young Turks have offered to pay $1 million, but other companies are offering 10 times that or more.
Richie Hecker, chairman and CEO of Traction & Scale, told BuzzFeed News that they were willing to donate $10 million to charity in order to host the debate. If chosen, Hecker would hold the debate on Monday, June 6, the day before the primary, at the largest venue in California that they can reserve.
Meanwhile, Top Rank Promotions has offered to donate $20 million to charity in order to host a debate on Pay-Per-View, the Washington Times reported. They would donate 80 percent of the proceeds, with a minimum of $20 million, to charity. Bob Arum, a well-known boxing promoter, said it would be the debate of the century and he wants to promote it, while choosing unconventional moderators like Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz.
Sanders has been polling better nationally against Trump than Clinton is polling against Trump. (Read the full story here.) This has sparked a conversation among Democrats that Sanders would actually be a better general election candidate than Clinton. A debate would benefit both Sanders and Trump. This would help cement Trump as an anti-establishment candidate and it would give Sanders even more legitimacy as a strong contender against Trump. Such a debate might also give Trump his biggest debate audience yet and, as Huffington Post said, a chance to “woo” Sanders supporters if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination. For Sanders, it would also give him his largets television audience yet, free advertising prior to the primary, and a chance to prove to super delegates that he has what it takes to win.
Do you think that Trump and Sanders should debate? Let us know in the poll below: