In his first effort to scuttle the Fall presidential debates Donald Trump has suggested that Hillary Clinton is trying to rig the debates by scheduling them during must-watch NFL games.
Is this true? Not a trick question! Since it’s come up a lot I want to lay out some basic facts about Trump’s latest claim.
1. Did Hillary Clinton do this?
No, of course not. The Commission on Presidential debates has overseen all presidential debates going back to the 1980s. The commission is bipartisan (co-chaired by one Republican and one Democrat) and announced the dates for this year’s debates on September 23rd, 2015. This year’s NFL schedule was announced in April 2016.
2. How many days are there in a week?
Well, seven of course. But some have suggested that even though the exact schedule wasn’t known until April, the commission knew what days and nights the NFL schedules games. Here’s where calendar knowledge comes in. Friday and Saturday are historically low TV viewership nights. If the debate commission wanted high viewership those two nights are out. Since 2006, the NFL has scheduled games on three nights a week, in addition to the main Sunday afternoon play: Sunday, Monday and Thursday. If the commission wants to work around the NFL schedule they are limited to two days out of the week: Tuesday and Wednesday.
3. Has the debate commission ever done this before?
4. Did Donald Trump get a letter from the NFL complaining about the schedule?
No. He lied about that. Earlier this week Trump told ABC News: “It’s against two NFL games. I got a letter from the NFL saying, ‘This is ridiculous.'”
An NFL spokesman said categorically that the NFL never sent a letter about the debates to Trump.
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) July 30, 2016
The Trump campaign now says ““Mr. Trump was made aware of the conflicting dates by a source close to the league.”