Republican nominee Donald Trump says he’s ready to go toe to toe with Hillary Clinton in the upcoming presidential debates, but believes the moderators of the first two — NBC’s Lester Holt, ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper — may treat him unfairly.
“By the way, Lester is a Democrat,” Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly on Monday night. “They’re all Democrats.”
That is not true in Holt’s case. According to Time magazine, which cited New York voter registration records, the “NBC Nightly News” host has been registered as a Republican since 2003.
“It’s a phony system,” Trump continued. “It’s a very unfair system.”
He singled out Cooper specifically.
“I’m not OK with Anderson Cooper, who treats me very unfairly on CNN,” Trump said. “I think CNN, they call it the Clinton News Network.”
Both Trump and Clinton agreed to the moderators and formats announced earlier this month by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.
Holt will moderate the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., on Sept. 26. Cooper and Raddatz will co-moderate the second debate, a town-hall style forum, in St. Louis on Oct. 9. Fox News’ Chris Wallace will moderate the third and final presidential debate in Las Vegas on Oct. 19.
Trump, though, has been preemptively sounding the alarm on a “rigged” debate system for the past several weeks.
After Matt Lauer faced harsh criticism over his performance as host of NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum earlier this month, Trump predicted the moderators of the upcoming debates would be harder on him.
“Everyone’s saying that [Lauer] was soft on Trump,” he said last week on CNBC. “Well, now the new person’s going to try to be really hard on Trump just to show, you know, the establishment what [they] can do. So I think it’s very unfair what they’re doing.”
What would be fair, then?
“I think we should have a debate with no moderators,” Trump said. “Just Hillary and I sitting there talking.”
In his interview with O’Reilly, the brash real estate mogul revealed little in the way of his debate strategy, saying he’s unsure if he’ll unleash personal attacks on Clinton.
“I have absolutely no idea,” Trump said. “If Hillary Clinton treats me with respect, I will treat her with respect.”
“She can bait me, I can bait her, and we’ll see what happens,” he continued. “I can talk about her deleting emails after she gets a subpoena from Congress. I can talk about her record, which is a disaster … so we’ll go back and forth. She’s got a lot of baggage, I’ll tell you what. She’s been there a long time, and we need change in this country.”
O’Reilly asked Trump if he planned to bring up the Clintons’ marital history and President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal during the debates.
“I don’t think I’m looking to do that, Bill,” Trump replied. “I don’t know what I’m going to do exactly.”