The three presidential debates and sole vice presidential debate will likely exclude third parties, and GOP nominee Donald Trump is just fine with that.
“I’d rather have head to head and right now they’re not getting any numbers,” Trump told The Washington Post in August, saying he wanted to debate Democrat Hillary Clinton and exclude the Green Party’s Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson.
But when Trump himself was slated to be excluded from the debate stage, he had a different opinion.
In January of 2000, the Reform Party held a press conference that, among other things, discussed the exclusion of third-party candidates from the presidential debates. Then-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, one of the party’s few endorsed candidates to hold a major office, denounced the exclusion as “despicable.”
Ventura was joined by Trump, who was at the time was considering running for president on the Reform Party ticket.
“I agree 100 percent with Jesse. It’s disgraceful. It’s amazing that they can get away with it,” Trump said during that press conference in 2000.
Trump criticized the threshold — which still exists today — of allowing other candidates into the debate only if they consistently poll at or above 15 percent in national polls.
“I just think it’s unfair … to have such a high standard, a high criteria. For a party that’s a legitimate party, that has a substantial amount of federal funding, that’s recognized,” he said. “Very unfair.”
Watch the relevant section of the press conference:
Trump and Ventura did not suggest an alternative threshold for third party candidates to be allowed into the debate, but some reformers have suggested an alternative rule. They have called for debate access for candidates who achieve enough ballot access to theoretically win and who can achieve either 5 percent in national polls or who polls show Americans want in the debates.
Clinton has yet to speak on the issue of third-party exclusion.