After days of back-and-forth statements, challenges, and speculation, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared to have finally rejected an offer to debate Democratic nomination-seeker Bernie Sanders before the June 7 California primary, saying, “It seems inappropriate that I would debate the second-place finisher” in the Democratic nominating contest.
The two men had been kicking around the idea of a debate since Trump appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, where Kimmel said that Sanders had passed along an invitation for Trump to debate him. Trump initially said he was open to the idea, then at a news conference he suggested he would debate on the condition that the networks donate $10 million to $15 million to charities that support women’s health causes.
But after Sanders’ campaign manager pressed the issue, releasing a statement saying that the Sanders campaign had received offers from two networks wishing to host the debate and make “a major contribution to charity,” Trump released a statement that seemingly sounded the death knell for that idea:
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, 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.
Sanders is trailing Hillary Clinton in the Democratic nomination race by hundreds of delegates and has repeatedly said he would look forward to debating Trump, while Clinton declined an invitation from Fox News to debate Sanders before the California primary.
Sanders told reporters in California that he hoped Mr. Trump would change his mind. “Well, Mr. Trump, what are you afraid of?” Sanders said. “If you’re so tough, let’s sit down and have that debate.”