News Politics

Clinton Wants Sanders to Join Unsanctioned Debate Sponsored by Anti-Choice News Outlet

Ally Boguhn

The event, moderated by Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow, would allow local reporters to ask questions of the Democratic candidates.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called on Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to allow for an unsanctioned Democratic debate pitched by MSNBC and an anti-choice news outlet, the New Hampshire Union Leader.

“What I’ve said to my campaign is that I would look forward to another debate. I am, you know, anxious, if we can get something set up, to be able to be there. And so let’s try to make it happen,” Clinton said during a phone interview Wednesday on MSNBC’s Hardball in which she addressed news that that the network had planned a new unsanctioned debate.

“I would like the chairman of the party and the campaigns to agree that we can debate in New Hampshire next week. That is what I’m hoping will happen,” Clinton went on before calling on Sanders to “change his mind” and join the debate.

Sanders leads by 13 points in New Hampshire, according to Real Clear Politics’ polling average.

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The Union Leader announced Tuesday that it would team up with MSNBC for a prime-time debate on February 4, five days prior to the polls opening for the state’s influential primary. The event, moderated by Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow, would allow local reporters to ask questions of the Democratic candidates.

The Union Leader has a history of publishing stringently anti-choice editorials attacking reproductive health and politicians who champion it, according to an analysis conducted by Rewire.

“Our readers have demanded a debate to help them see who is most fit to be the Democratic nominee for President,” Joseph W. McQuaid, Union Leader president and publisher, said in a statement. “We were always concerned that this would have been the first time in 32 years without a Democratic debate before the New Hampshire primary. We are glad to partner with MSNBC to ensure Granite Staters have the information they need to make a critical decision on Feb. 9.”

The Democratic Party has “no plans” to formally sanction the new debate, meaning that candidates who attend may be penalized for breaking party rules stipulating that those who participate in unsanctioned debates would face “forfeiture of the ability to participate in the remainder of the debate process,” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

Wasserman Shultz has faced criticism for allowing the DNC to partner with the Union Leader for a December Democratic debate, in part because of the Leader’s anti-choice viewpoints.

Sanders’ campaign explained that the senator would sit out the event because the campaign did not want to “jeopardize our ability to participate in future debates,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, said in a Tuesday statement, according to the New York Times.

Martin O’Malley is the only candidate to have accepted the invitation to participate so far.

John Bivona, O’Malley’s New Hampshire state director, called the move to have a new debate a “big victory not only for our campaign and our supporters that championed this effort, but it is also a victory for voters across New Hampshire and the United States,” in a Tuesday statement after the debate’s announcement. 

Clinton’s calls for the DNC and Sanders to “make” the Union Leader and MSNBC’s debate happen come despite the candidate’s efforts to make reproductive rights a key part of her platform. Clinton recently spoke out about her opposition to the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion, and has advocated on behalf of organizations such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America after receiving endorsements from those groups.

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