Donald Trump has called for the upcoming debate with Hillary Clinton to be conducted without a moderator present, claiming that moderators will be “rigged” in her favor.
The Republican nominee said that a debate with a moderator would be both “unfair” and “rigged”.
“I think maybe we should have no moderator. Let Hillary and I sit there and just debate, because I think the system is being rigged so it’s going to be a very unfair debate,” Trump told CNBC.
“I think we should have a debate with no moderator, just Hillary and I sitting there talking,” he said.
Trump cited last week’s “Commander-in-Chief Forum” on NBC moderated by Matt Lauer, whose performance was panned, including by The New York Times and Clinton’s campaign.
“The system is being gamed,” Trump declared Monday. “They all said I won and that Matt Lauer was easy on me. Well, he wasn’t. I thought he was very professional, I have to be honest. I think he’s been treated very unfairly. ”
“What they’re doing is they’re gaming the system so that when I go into the debate, I’m going to be treated very, very unfairly by the moderators,” Trump said.
He argued that the perception that Lauer was “soft on Trump” was being promoted so the next Clinton-Trump moderator will try to be “really hard on Trump.”
The comments from Trump come as he and Clinton battle the media for favorable coverage.
Clinton surrogates said the Lauer interview highlights a pattern in coverage in which Trump gets softer questions than Clinton, who was grilled by the NBC host over her private email server.
Trump and his supporters argue the media is firmly on Clinton’s side, as evidenced most recently in criticism of questions raised by conservatives about Clinton’s health.
Trump has feuded with past debate moderators, most notably Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly in the first GOP debate.
Trump on Monday likened what he said he sees happening with the debates to how famed Indiana college basketball coach Bobby Knight, a backer of Trump, used to handle referees.
“Bobby would do numbers on the referee and toward the end of the game they would just sort of subconsciously give him the call,” Trump said. “They’re doing the same thing now.”
The first of three presidential debates is scheduled for Sept. 26 in New York. It will be the first time Trump and Clinton appear on stage together, after their consecutive appearances at the forum last week.