Sanders Won’t Attend New Democratic Debate Unless Sanctioned By DNC


Updated at 10:31 a.m.

After MSNBC and the New Hampshire Union-Leader announced on Tuesday that they would hold an unsanctioned Democratic presidential debate ahead of the New Hampshire primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said he would not attend a debate not sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee.

Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, told the New York Times that Sanders won’t participate in an unsanctioned debate for fear that he would be barred from future official debates.

A spokeswoman for Clinton, told the Union-Leader that the former secretary of state would be “happy to participate in a debate in New Hampshire if the other candidates agree, which would allow the DNC to sanction the debate.”

The DNC said in a Tuesday statement that the party will not sanction the Feb. 4 debate planned by MSNBC and the Union-Leader.

“We have no plans to sanction any further debates before the upcoming First in the Nation caucuses and primary, but will reconvene with our campaigns after those two contests to review our schedule,” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) said in the statement.

Weaver said that Sanders wants to participate in more debates, but Weaver did not approve of the last-minute nature of the debate hosted by MSNBC and the Union-Leader.

“We think there should be at least three or four more debates following the ones that are currently scheduled. Senator Sanders has wanted more debates from the beginning of this campaign, and we are happy to see that it looks like we are likely to get them,” Weaver said, according to the New York Times.

He added that the Democrats need “a rational, thought-out schedule of debates. Not just ad hoc debates scheduled whenever a network decides they want to have one.”

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said he will participate in the unsanctioned debate.

Wasserman-Schultz has faced criticism from Sanders and O’Malley, as well as other Democratic party officials, for limiting the number of Democratic presidential debates to six. The DNC has said it will bar candidates from participating in the six official debates if they participate in a debate not sanctioned by the party.

In the Tuesday evening statement, Wasserman-Schultz defended the DNC’s approach to the primary debates.

“We have consistently worked with our campaigns to ensure a schedule that is robust and that allows them to engage with voters in a variety of ways, whether through debates, forums, town halls, but also leaving them the flexibility to attend county fairs and living room conversations in states like Iowa and New Hampshire where direct voter contact matters so much,” she said.

Correction: This post originally identified Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager as Jim Weaver. His name is Jeff Weaver.