RFK Jr. lashes out after failure to make CNN debate stage

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Thursday lashed out after CNN announced its June 27 debate would be a head-to-head between President Biden and former President Trump, leaving the independent White House hopeful off the stage.

“Presidents Biden and Trump do not want me on the debate stage and CNN illegally agreed to their demand,” Kennedy alleged in a statement from his campaign. “My exclusion by Presidents Biden and Trump from the debate is undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly.”

Biden and Trump alone officially qualified for next week’s presidential debate, the first of the cycle, CNN announced Thursday.

Kennedy had been scrambling to try to make the cut, but appeared unlikely to hit the polling and delegate benchmarks ahead of the deadline, which Biden and Trump have already cleared.

The cable network required contenders to get 15 percent of support in four national polls and to appear as declared candidates in enough places to total 270 electoral votes — the minimum number needed to win the presidency — in order to participate in the event, hosted by moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. As an independent, Kennedy has had an uphill climb to ballot access.

Kennedy has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) arguing CNN “colluded” with Biden and Trump to keep him off the stage — and the campaign on Thursday reiterated the allegation that CNN’s Biden-Trump debate is “a clear violation of federal law.”

“If the debate goes forward without Mr. Kennedy, the Kennedy campaign intends to pursue this issue for as long as it takes to obtain justice against these illegal acts, if for no other reason than to ensure this type of undemocratic and un-American conduct does not occur again in the future,” Kennedy’s campaign said in a Thursday release.

The Hill has reached out to CNN for comment on Kennedy’s statement.

Trump and Biden, the presumptive nominees of their respective parties, are now set to go head-to-head next week in a rematch of their 2020 contest. Last cycle’s debates between the two contenders were marked by insults, interruptions and clashes with moderators.

ABC is set to host the second debate on Sept. 10.

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