Kennedy Campaign Claims CNN Debate Will Be Illegal

In complaint to FEC, campaign argues that Biden, Trump colluded with network to keep him off the stage
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2024 4:46 AM CDT
RFK Jr. Files Complaint Over CNN Debate
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton, Friday, May 24, 2024.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

After President Biden and former President Trump agreed earlier this month to hold two debates, Robert F. Kennedy accused the candidates of colluding against him. The independent candidate has now made the complaint official with a Federal Election Commission filing. His campaign alleges that the Biden and Trump campaigns illegally colluded with CNN to keep him out of the network's June 27 debate, Politico reports. Kennedy's campaign also claims that the debate "is a large prohibited campaign contribution to Biden and Trump."

The filing argues that CNN allowed Biden and Trump to "set the criteria and therefore select themselves as the only participants." It claims that the debate violates the Federal Elections Act "because CNN is illegally demanding that Kennedy meet different criteria to participate than Presidents Biden and Trump." Under CNN's requirement, a candidate must be on the ballot in enough states by June 20 to potentially receive the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. A CNN spokesman tells the Washington Post that as the presumptive nominees of the two major parties, "both Biden and Trump will satisfy this requirement," while Kennedy. as an independent candidate, "does not."

Kennedy's "mere application for ballot access does not guarantee that he will appear on the ballot in any state," the CNN spokesman says, adding that Kennedy has also failed to meet the requirement to reach at least 15% support in four national polls. Kennedy's campaign said last week that it had reached the threshold in three polls. Saurav Ghosh at the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center tells the Post that since CNN is a for-profit media corporation allowed to "make decisions about what is ultimately their business interest," Kennedy will face an "uphill legal climb" to persuade the FEC that the debate is an illegal campaign contribution. (More Robert F. Kennedy Jr. stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.