Why President Johnson Suggested CNN Would “Rig” the Debate in Biden’s Favor

President Mike Johnson, the highest-ranking Republican in government, has recently leaned heavily on former President Donald Trump’s embrace. Naturally, this incitement extends to blatant backlash in the run-up to Thursday’s presidential debate.

“I expect everyone to be watching,” Johnson told Tony Perkins, president of the ultraconservative Family Research Council, on the latter’s new show, “This Week on the Hill.” (Johnson appears in every episode of the recently launched show.) “I also expect CNN to fake it as much as possible and make it as favorable to President (Joe) Biden as possible, but I don’t think so. it’s going to work. As obvious as this statement is, it also suggests a lack of confidence in the standard-bearer of the Republican Party.

As obvious as this statement is, it also suggests a lack of confidence in the Republican Party’s standard-bearer.

There’s a grain of truth in Johnson’s dig at CNN: the cable channel do have much more latitude than debate hosts had in the past 30 years under the Commission on Presidential Debates. The nonpartisan group has served as a go-between for presidential campaigns since 1987, organizing the format, location and moderator of the on-stage showdowns. The CPD has already announced the dates for this fall’s debates, months before the Biden campaign announced that it and the Trump campaign would work directly with CNN and ABC News this year.

But CNN’s rules have been public for weeks. There will be no live audience, no use of props or written notes on stage, and candidates’ microphones will be muted except when it is their time to speak. Both sides have already agreed to these rules, though it’s easy to imagine Trump later claiming he was unfairly silenced. The two sides even decided by coin toss that Biden would stand at the lectern to the right of the screen while Trump would deliver his closing remarks in second position, having the final word.

By suggesting otherwise, Johnson is doing several things at once. First, it feeds into the current Republican Party dogma that Trump is the victim of a constant, coordinated effort to bring him down by any means necessary. Fear-mongering about CNN falls into the same category as false claims that Democrats stole the 2020 election and that the multiple indictments and prosecutions against Trump are just political pursuits. Johnson supported both false narratives, appearing with Trump at Mar-a-Lago to reinforce the myth that non-citizens vote in elections and visiting New York during his criminal trial in Manhattan.

Johnson also suggests that any poor performance by Trump in the debate will simply be due to CNN’s deception, and not a reflection of his own lack of knowledge or preparation.

Johnson also suggests that any poor performance by Trump in the debate will simply be due to CNN’s deception, not his own lack of knowledge or preparation. It is traditional for spokespersons to lower expectations of their candidate before the debates, in order to more easily exceed them during the real confrontation. But a huge question mark hangs over how Trump will manage to stand up to Biden this time around.

It’s become clear that Trump’s campaign appearances are out of step with his 2020 campaign against Biden, not to mention his 2016 race against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His speeches have become more rambling than before, full of strange dead-ends that even his supporters have trouble following. He’s begun to slur his speeches and forget names even when he sticks to the teleprompter for a change. Many a high-ranking CEO in a room full of top executives reportedly came away shaken after seeing him speak in New York earlier this month.

In attempting to blame CNN for Trump’s poor performance, Johnson is providing the talking point we should expect to hear from all sides of the Republican Party by Friday morning. Like the conspiracy theory that Biden wore a hidden earpiece during the 2020 debate, there will be no evidence of misconduct on the network’s part. But it seems a lot easier to convince Republican voters that shenanigans are afoot than to admit that their candidate, who, if elected, will be the oldest person to hold the presidency by the end of this term, lost a step or seven.

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