The National Football League didn’t use the word liar. But it came as close as possible today when the organization unequivocally denied claims made by Donald Trump that the League had sent the GOP Presidential candidate a letter complaining about the timing of 2016 Presidential debates.
At issue is the fact that two of the debates are scheduled opposite NFL football games. Trump has for the last 24 hours been complaining about that timing, kicking things off last night with a tweet alleging that the Democratic Party rigged the schedule of the debates to reduce viewership, presumably to benefit Hillary Clinton in some unexplained way. Trump is, of course, mistaken: the Democratic Party had no role in choosing the dates for the scheduled debates, which were selected last year by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, a private organization composed of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.
Numerous people in the political sphere and, naturally, on Twitter pointed out that fact, but the corrections didn’t stop Trump from doubling down on the claims. The erstwhile The Apprentice host was interviewed today by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, claiming “I got a letter from the NFL saying, ‘This is ridiculous. Why are the debates against—’ ‘Cause the NFL doesn’t wanna go against the debates. ‘Cause the debates are gonna be pretty massive, from what I understand, okay? And I don’t think we should be against the NFL.”
The NFL however says it never happened. Speaking to CNN’s Brian Stelter, an NFL spokesman said “While we’d obviously wish the debate commission could find another night, we did not send a letter to Trump.”
Veracity aside, Trump’s claims are part of a series of tweets and other public statements by Trump attempting to court Bernie Sanders supporters still angry that their preferred candidate lost the Democratic primary. A frequent complaint lobbed against the Democratic National Committee during the primary was that the party’s primary debates were scheduled on nights likely to see low viewership, which they said benefitted Clinton over Sanders.
The first of 2016’s Presidential debates is set for September 26, opposite ESPN’s Monday Night Football, and the second Presidential debate is scheduled October 9 at the same time Sunday Night Football airs on NBC. The final Presidential debate is set for October 19, with the Vice Presidential debate scheduled for October 4.