RFK Jr. Unable to Qualify for CNN's Presidential Debate

Independent Candidate Deemed Ineligible Amid Accusations of Collusion by Major Parties.

Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will not participate in the first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle hosted by CNN, as he failed to meet the necessary criteria. The qualification window closed after midnight on Thursday, with only President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump meeting the requirements.

Kennedy’s exclusion was confirmed by a CNN spokesperson who noted that he missed the threshold in two critical areas: he did not receive at least 15% in four national polls approved by CNN, earning that percentage in only three accepted surveys, and he lacks sufficient ballot access to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

As of Thursday, Kennedy’s campaign has secured ballot access in just six states, totaling 89 Electoral College votes, far short of the necessary number. In response to his exclusion, Kennedy issued a statement calling the decision “undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly.”

Kennedy also filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), accusing CNN of colluding with Biden and Trump to keep him off the debate stage. He alleged that CNN was making “prohibited corporate contributions” to both major party candidates by imposing different criteria on him.

CNN defended its rules, explaining that Trump and Biden meet the ballot access threshold as they are the presumptive nominees of major parties. The last time a third-party candidate appeared in a presidential debate was in 1992, when Ross Perot participated alongside President George H.W. Bush and Governor Bill Clinton.

Kennedy, who initially ran as a Democrat, shifted to an independent campaign after criticizing his party for not holding primary debates. Despite his efforts, his campaign has struggled to gain the necessary support to meet CNN's debate criteria.

The upcoming debate, scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 27, will feature “State of the Union” anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash as moderators. The 90-minute event will include two commercial breaks, and there will be no studio audience. Rules stipulate no props, a coin flip to determine podium positions, and muted microphones when it is not a candidate’s turn to speak.

Another debate between Biden and Trump is planned for Tuesday, September 10, hosted by ABC News, which has set criteria matching CNN’s requirements.

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