A vice chairman at the Democratic National Committee on Thursday accused the committee’s chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), of lying about another official at the DNC, escalating a public tiff between Wasserman Schultz and two DNC vice chairs over the number of Democratic presidential debates sanctioned by the party.
R.T. Rybak, a DNC vice chairman and former Minneapolis mayor, told the New York Times that Wasserman Schultz made statements about another DNC vice chair, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) that are “flat-out not true,” and he questioned whether the chair “can lead this party.”
Democratic officials have been at odds for a while over the number of DNC-sanctioned presidential debates. The committee has permitted the candidates to participate in six debates despite calls from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) for more debates.
In September, Rybak and Gabbard pressed Wasserman Schultz to add more debates to the schedule, but she refused to change the DNC policy. After Gabbard repeated her call for more debates in an interview on MSNBC, she was allegedly uninvited from the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas by Wasserman Schultz.
Gabbard said that she was uninvited by the chair, but Wasserman Schultz pushed back on her statement and said that Gabbard agreed not to attend the debate “because she agreed that she would likely be a distraction.” Wasserman also disputed a claim made by Gabbard that the vice chairs were not consulted about the presidential debate process.
Wasserman Schultz’s comments rejecting Gabbard’s claims apparently sent Rybak over the edge.
“This is not a back-and-forth between a chair and a vice chair,” he told the New York Times on Thursday. “This is a chair of the Democratic Party wrongly stating that she consulted with all of the party officers. I was not consulted. I know that Tulsi Gabbard was not consulted. And this is becoming about much more than debates.”
“The Democratic National Committee staff has never been stronger,” he continued. “The one thing that could stop us from having a great election coming up is if the chair continues to create these self-made dramas that are below what a chair should be doing.”
Rybak said that DNC officials have been urging Wasserman Schultz to include more people in the process for months.
“Like many other people, I have kept my mouth shut, and have tried to make the situation work for months. It is becoming increasingly clear that the chair doesn’t have the political skills — or more likely, want to execute the skills — to make this party a big tent. I blame myself for trying to stuff it, and trying to make things work when it’s clear we have a problem,” he told the Times.
“I will not stand by and have one of the great leaders of our party, Tulsi Gabbard, have her honesty questioned by the chair on national television,” he said.
“And that’s why I’m doing what I wanted not to do for a long time, which is go public with my serious questions of whether she can lead this party,” Rybak added, referring to Wasserman Schultz.
When asked about Rybak’s remarks about Wasserman Schultz and the debate process by the Times, Amy Dacey, the DNC chief of staff, said that the chair did not consult Gabbard and Rybak about the number of debates. Dacey added that, “No one is as hardworking or more dedicated to electing a Democrat” as Wasserman Schultz.
Following Rybak’s comments on Thursday, numerous DNC officials defended Wasserman Schultz and downplayed the committee infighting, including Henry R. Muñoz III, the DNC’s national finance co-chairman, and Ray Buckley, a national vice chair at the DNC, according to the Times.