Trump says RFK Jr ‘needs more than his name’ to join him and Biden in debate

RFK Jr took issue with being left out of Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s debate plans, claiming it’s because they’re ‘afraid’ to lose to him

Joe Sommerlad
Thursday 16 May 2024 14:40 BST
Joe Biden challenges Donald Trump to two debates: ‘I hear you’re free on Wednesdays’

Donald Trump brutally told Robert F Kennedy Jr that he “needs more than his name” if he wants to join him and President Joe Biden on stage for the 2024 presidential debates.

On Wednesday, the presumptive Republican and Democratic presidential nominees agreed to come face-to-face on a pair of dates as they head towards a 2020 rematch this November.

Their plans – which materialised through a series of jibes at each other – rattled RFK Jr, who took issue with being left out of the events.

The former president responded to his complaints on Thursday morning, before heading to court for the start of the next day of his hush money trial in New York, taking jabs at both RFK Jr and Mr Biden in the process.

“Crooked Joe Biden does not want RFK Jr. in the debates because Junior’ is far left [of] him and they would be debating over the same territory, like ridiculous Open Borders and the Green New Scam, both of which are killing our Country,” Mr Trump claimed on his Truth Social platform on Thursday morning.

“He’s also sharper and far more intelligent than Joe, all making for a bad combination of ingredients.

“I don’t care if Juniors [sic] joins the Debate, but right now his polling numbers are very low, he is not properly qualified in the States, and he seems to be on a downward path. Junior’ needs more than his name to get on the ‘stage!’”

President Biden took the lead on Wednesday when he posted a social media video challenging Mr Trump to a debate after months of speculation.

“Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020, and since then, he hasn’t shown up to a debate. Now he’s acting like he wants to debate me again,” President Biden declared, before adding, with his best Clint Eastwood squint: “Make my day, pal.”

Independent presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr speaks to the media at a Cesar Chavez Day event at Union Station on 30 March 2024 in Los Angeles, California
Independent presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr speaks to the media at a Cesar Chavez Day event at Union Station on 30 March 2024 in Los Angeles, California (Getty)

He further taunted Mr Trump by commenting: “I hear you’re free on Wednesdays” – a reference to the weekly recess day in his ongoing hush money trial.

The former president, who has previously boasted he would take on Mr Biden “anytime, anywhere” hit back quickly, readily agreeing to the proposition by saying: “Let’s get ready to Rumble!!!”

Within hours, two debates had been fixed: one on Thursday 27 June to be hosted and broadcast by CNN and a follow-up on Tuesday 10 September organised by ABC News.

The prospect of the two senior citizens attacking each other was swiftly ridiculed, however, with Utah senator Mitt Romneyjoking they would come across “like the two old guys on The Muppets” and comedian Stephen Colbert branding the contests: “Let’s get ready to ramble.”

For his part, RFK Jr took issue with the fact that he was being excluded from the stage, claiming it’s because the mainstream presidential contenders are scared of him.

“Presidents Trump and Biden are colluding to lock America into a head-to-head match-up that 70 per cent say they do not want,” he wrote in a post on X.

“They are trying to exclude me from their debate because they are afraid I would win. Keeping viable candidates off the debate stage undermines democracy.”

Donald Trump and Joe Biden debate on stage ahead of 2020 election
Donald Trump and Joe Biden debate on stage ahead of 2020 election (AP)

He continued: “Forty-three per cent of Americans identify as independents. If Americans are ever going to escape the hammerlock of the two-party system, now is the time to do it. These are the two most unpopular candidates in living memory.

“By excluding me from the stage, Presidents Biden and Trump seek to avoid discussion of their eight years of mutual failure including deficits, wars, lockdowns, chronic disease, and inflation.”

A candidate must meet all five of CNN’s qualifying standards to take part in the debate.

According to the network’s stipulations, a candidate must be constitutionally eligible to serve as president, must file a statement of constituency with the Federal Election Commission, must have their name on enough state ballots to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to actually win the election, must agree to the debate’s rules and format and must have earned at least 15 per cent in four national polls of registered or likely voters that meets CNN’s standards.

Independent presidential candidate RFK Jr, at present, does not meet this criteria.

While RFK Jr is correct that more than 43 per cent of Americans identify as independents, that does not mean that all of those independents support him.

He has not received at least 15 per cent in four national polls and he has not appeared on enough state ballots to show he can actually win the presidency, meaning he does not meet the network’s qualifying criteria.

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