Politics & Policy

Amid DNC Revolt against ‘Rigged’ Debate Schedule, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Holds Firm

(Paul Morigi/Getty)

This morning, Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz firmly rebuffed the demands of a growing intra-party insurrection over her planned presidential debate schedule, which Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley says is “rigged” in favor of Hillary Clinton.

“We’re going to have six debates. Period,” Wasserman-Schultz told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Thursday. The DNC chair shrugged off calls from O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, and two DNC vice chairs to hold more debates and scrap its so-called “exclusivity clause,” which punishes candidates who participate in any additional debates.

“We are not changing the process,” she stressed. “We are having six debates, and candidates will be uninvited from any subsequent debates if they accept an invitation to a debate outside of the six DNC-sanctioned debates.”

Wasserman-Schultz’s defiance comes in the face of a burgeoning revolt over the DNC’s debate rules, sparked by O’Malley’s speech at the Democratic party’s summer meeting in Minneapolis two weeks ago. In front of the assembled DNC delegates — and just feet away from Wasserman-Schultz — O’Malley said the limited debate schedule was “rigged” to benefit Clinton, whose front-runner status is rapidly diminishing. Fellow candidate Bernie Sanders agreed, joining O’Malley’s call to expand the debate schedule and scrap the exclusivity clause.

#share#On Wednesday, two top Democratic officials threw their lot in with the insurgents. DNC vice chairs Tulsi Gabbard and R.T. Rybak said that Wasserman-Schultz’s current debate schedule “limits the ability of the American people to benefit from a strong, transparent, vigorous debate between our Presidential candidates.” Gabbard is a congresswoman from Hawaii, and Rybak is the former mayor of Minneapolis.

O’Malley called out Wasserman-Schultz directly on MSNBC Thursday morning, again accusing the chair of “rigging” the process and “circling the wagons” around Clinton’s candidacy. Allow Debate, an O’Malley-affiliated political group, is planning a September 16 protest in front of the DNC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.

#related#Appearing unmoved by the uprising, Wasserman-Schultz explained to the assembled reporters that the schedule was designed to give all candidates adequate time to prepare. “It’s labor-intensive to prepare for a debate,” she said. “A responsible candidate comes off the road, has to devote time and staff resources and personal time getting prepared. Because of this window that we’re in, where we have the early-primary states that have that retail form of communicating, that’s also labor intensive, it’s important to make sure we give the candidates a schedule that allows them to really engage in that process.”

And she laughed off the accusation that she’s rigged the schedule for Clinton’s benefit. “A couple of days ago, I think it was [the] Drudge Report who said that I obviously delayed the first debate to mid-October because I’m in the tank with Joe Biden,” she said. “So every day, someone is going to say something about my intentions. Like I said, I have a party to run.”

— Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review.

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