Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thomspon has become the fourth leading GOP presidential candidate to shun the PBS debate this month at a historically black college in Baltimore, the Huffington Post has learned.
The debates, moderated by Tavis Smiley, will go on as planned, despite the absence of Thompson, former mayor Rudy Giuliani, former governor Mitt Romney, and Sen. John McCain. Each campaign cited scheduling issues as the reason for their absence. Nevertheless, the rejections underscore the consistent absence of GOP candidates at minority voter forums.
"There is a pattern here," Smiley told the Huffington Post. "When you tell every black and brown request that you get throughout the primary process that 'no, there's a scheduling problem.' That's a pattern... Are we really supposed to believe that all four of these guys couldn't make it because of scheduling?"
The Republican frontrunners' snubbing of Smiley and PBS comes on the heels of their rejection of a debate sponsored by the Spanish-language network Univision (McCain was the only GOP candidate to accept that invitation). This past June, only one Republican presidential candidate, California Rep. Duncan Hunter, showed up at the convention of the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials.
"It's not just that they are not coming. It's that some of them are visibly insulting us," Cecilia Munoz, vice president of NCLR, told the Politico.
According to Smiley, the Thompson campaign knew about the debate - taking place at 9 pm on September 27 at Morgan State University- well before he declared his candidacy. Former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman chose the date because it worked best for all the potential candidates, Smiley said.