All five presidential candidates are participating in a CNN interview event Monday night, the same night the three GOP candidates had originally been scheduled to participate in a debate on Fox News. CNN put out a press release Friday afternoon:
CNN announced today that Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer will host a three-hour primetime event with both Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls on Monday March 21 from 8 to 11 pmET. The event will take place just before the ‘Western Tuesday’ primary contests in Arizona, Utah and Idaho (D).
Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will each be individually interviewed in the CNN Election Center in Washington, D.C. while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will be interviewed from the campaign trail.
While not a debate, the CNN event takes place the same night Fox News had scheduled a GOP debate in Salt Lake City, Utah. That debate was cancelled Wednesday after Donald Trump and then John Kasich said they were withdrawing from it. CBS News reported on the moves that led to the cancellation:
“This morning, Donald Trump announced he would not be participating in the debate. Shortly afterward, John Kasich’s campaign announced that without Trump at the debate, Kasich would not participate. Ted Cruz has expressed a willingness to debate Trump or Kasich — or both. But obviously, there needs to be more than one participant,” Michael Clemente, executive vice president of Fox’s news division, said in a statement. “So the Salt Lake City debate is cancelled.”
The reason for Trump pulling out of the Fox debate was so he could speak to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) which had offered him a prime speaking slot the same night. Trump is still scheduled to speak to the group Monday night. In fact, CNN reported Friday that several Jewish groups have announced plans to protest and/or boycott the speech:
Come Together Against Hate’s plan is to either skip the speech altogether or silently walk out after Trump is introduced, then assemble outside and study Jewish scripture about what Paskin called the “opposite” of Trump — love and decency.
“We’re hoping thousands of people will join us in that protest,” Paskin said. “We’re going to be providing the antidote, we believe, to what Donald Trump is espousing.”
The AIPAC conference runs from Sunday through Tuesday at the Washington DC Convention Center. Obviously attending both events would not have been possible if Trump had stuck with the debate in Utah. The CNN special, which will be held in DC, will apparently allow Trump to also speak at both events the same night.
It does make one wonder whether Fox would have been willing to relocate their debate to DC to accommodate Trump’s schedule or if Trump even gave them a chance. Is the switch from Fox to CNN a sign there is a lingering problem with Megyn Kelly? Kelly was scheduled to be one of the co-hosts of the Utah debate. And Friday afternoon Trump tweeted another attack on the Fox host:
Then again, maybe Trump simply canceled the debate because of the conflict with AIPAC and later realized he could do the CNN event as well? Maybe that’s it.
In addition to Trump, candidates Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Hillary Clinton will also be speaking at AIPAC. The exact schedule does not appear to have been posted yet by AIPAC so it’s not clear when the other candidates will be speaking. Finally, Bernie Sanders confirmed Friday that he will not be attending the conference:
In a letter to AIPAC President Robert Cohen, Sanders expressed regret that he could not attend the annual conference, but said “issues impacting Israel and the Middle East are of the utmost importance to me, to our country and to the world.”
Sanders said he was scheduled to be traveling throughout the West and his campaign schedule prevents him from attending. He said he would send remarks to the organization in the hopes that they could be distributed to members as AIPAC does not permit candidates to address the conference remotely.
CNN notes that Sanders is the only Jewish candidate to ever win a presidential primary.