Trump turns down Sanders debate offer, cites ‘not too generous’ networks

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders © Jonathan Ernst, Alex Gallardo
Rejected for the second time in a week, Bernie Sanders will not debate another presidential candidate ahead of California’s June 7 primary. “As much as I want to,” Donald Trump said, a debate with Hillary Clinton’s primary rival would be “inappropriate.”

Two full days had not yet passed when, at the apex of the hype, the presumptive Republican nominee released a statement killing all hopes of an unorthodox debate with the Vermont senator.

“Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win,” Trump said Friday, “and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. Likewise, the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues. Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders - and it would be an easy payday - I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.” 

Wednesday night was quite a different story, with Trump appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where he accepted Sanders’ challenge, in concept anyway.

“If I debated him, we would have such high ratings,” Trump told Kimmel, demanding a condition that money be put up.

“And I think I should give, take that money and give it to some worthy charity, OK?” Trump said.

Within hours, Sanders took to Twitter, writing, “Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary.”

Even on Friday, the Sanders campaign was looking forward to a debate with the billionaire businessman, citing two unnamed network offers.

“We are prepared to accept one of those offers and look forward to working with the Trump campaign to develop a time, place and format that is mutually agreeable,” Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager, said in a statement.

Later Friday, Sanders released a statement of his own, saying, “In recent days, Donald Trump has said he wants to debate, he doesn’t want to debate, he wants to debate and, now, he doesn’t want to debate.

“Given that there are several television networks prepared to carry this debate and donate funds to charity, I hope that he changes his mind once again and comes on board.”

“There is a reason why in virtually every national and statewide poll I am defeating Donald Trump, sometimes by very large margins and almost always by far larger margins than Secretary Clinton. There is a reason for that reality and the American people should be able to see it up front in a good debate and a clash of ideas.”

The publicity around the ultimately non-event not only highlighted Sanders and Trump, but Clinton, for better or worse, got extra coverage as well, not for her issues, but her refusal to debate Sanders before California’s June 7 primary, where 475 delegates are at stake.