GOP Candidates’ Debate Demands ‘Sinking Fast’

By Mark Joyella 

The debate has shifted rapidly from “will the networks fold under pressure from Republican candidates” to “has the effort to coordinate a list of demands for future GOP debates collapsed completely?”

On Sunday, representatives of Republican presidential campaigns met to discuss last week’s CNBC debate–which they felt was unfair–and to draft a letter to the television networks outlining the campaigns expectations for future debates, including a request that networks agree to surrender some editorial control over things like on-screen graphics and camera angles.

None of the networks slated to host upcoming debates has responded, but already, it seems the letter may be dead on arrival. Three candidates–Donald Trump, Chris Christie, and John Kasich–have said they will not sign the letter. Carly Fiorina‘s campaign did not send a representative to the meeting over the weekend.


Trump told reporters his campaign has negotiated directly with networks, and will continue to do so. The Washington Post reports the draft letter was slated to be revised by mid-week. It’s unclear if it will ever reach the networks.

Politico reports the debate talks are “in disarray.” With candidates dropping out, and much disagreement behind the scenes, “things are sinking fast,” one campaign adviser said. “Things sound wobbly,” said another.

Writing in The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza called the debate demands “outlandish.” Lizza argues that “surely the red line for any media organization has to be editorial content.”

At Poynter, James Warren says the demands should be a non-starter for the networks. “How can you look yourself in the mirror as a supposedly reputable journalism enterprise and agree to let the candidates choose what chyrons and banners will be floating across the TV screen?”

Would the networks have stood firm against any surrender of editorial control, or made compromises in the interest of the ongoing debate process this cycle, which has brought unprecedented ratings and hefty revenue?