Robert F. Kennedy says Biden, Trump campaigns ‘colluding’ to keep him out of Atlanta debate

ATLANTA — It didn’t take long for third-party presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to voice his displeasure about being left out of the presidential debate slated for June 27 here in Atlanta.

CNN announced on Wednesday that Biden and Trump had accepted invitations from the cable news network for a debate to be held at the network’s Techwood campus studios. A short time later, ABC announced another debate between the presidents for September.

Not invited to either one: Kennedy.

Under the debate commission’s rules, Kennedy or other third-party candidates could qualify if they secured ballot access sufficient to claim 270 Electoral Votes and polled at 15% or higher in a selection of national surveys.


CNN and ABC announced the same qualification threshold, saying candidates will need to reach at least 15% in four separate national polls of registered or likely voters that meet their standards.

In a social media post, Kennedy said “Trump and Biden are colluding to lock America into a head-to-head match-up that 70% say they do not want. 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.”

Biden’s campaign had proposed excluding third-party candidates from the debates outright.

The debates will be the first televised general election matchups to be hosted by individual networks.

A few hours after blasting both campaigns, Kennedy said he would “meet the criteria to participate in the @CNN debate before the June 20 deadline. I look forward to holding Presidents Biden and Trump accountable for their records in Atlanta on June 27 to give Americans the debate they deserve.”

There are still several things that need to be settled with the debate, “including the specific rules that will be used since the commission won’t set them and whether third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. should participate (CNN’s rules include that he must reach 15% in the polls, a figure he hasn’t reached),” CNN reported on Wednesday.

The debate commission said in a Wednesday statement, “The American public deserves substantive debates from the leading candidates for president and vice president.” It said its mission is “to ensure that such debates reliably take place and reach the widest television, radio and streaming audience.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.