Carly Fiorina: Debate rules eroding 'trust' in media

Story highlights

  • In the first presidential debate, Fiorina appeared among the second tier of candidates but gave a widely applauded performance.
  • Her campaign also took to social media on Wednesday to keep up the effort.

Washington (CNN)Presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina says she should be on the main stage at the next Republican debate -- and that the rules news organizations are using to decide who appears at the events are fundamentally flawed.

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO launched an offensive Wednesday against CNN, which will host the next GOP debate in September, and against the broader media for the way they are using polls to decide which of 16 invited Republican candidates will be on stage at a time.
    On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday, Fiorina said the reliance on national polls in that decision-making is problematic.
    "We don't have national primaries, we have statewide primaries, and there are loads of state polls now," Fiorina said. "They all say the same thing: I'm in the top five. And so I didn't think the Fox News rules were particularly good using national polls. I don't think the CNN rules are particularly good, especially since they go all the way back to mid-July."
    A CNN spokesperson said once the rules for the debate were set, they could not be changed.
    "CNN published the criteria for the CNN-Reagan Library debate on May 20," the spokesperson said. "It will encompass polling data from three weeks prior to the first debate and five weeks following. Federal Election Commission guidelines make it clear that these criteria cannot be changed after they have been published. We believe that our approach is a fair and effective way to deal with the highest number of candidates we have ever encountered."
    Fox News hosted the first presidential debate, where Fiorina appeared among the second tier of candidates but gave a widely praised performance.
    On Wednesday, she said she can't control the debates, but the flaws in the system are responsible for eroding faith in news organizations and the Republican National Committee.
    "I think it's why people are losing trust in the media, frankly, and are upset in many cases with the RNC," she said.
    Her campaign also took to social media Wednesday to keep up the effort. Fiorina's deputy campaign manager, Sarah Isgur Flores, wrote a lengthy post on Medium articulating why the campaign feels that Fiorina's exclusion from the top-tier stage would be unfair.
    "Despite being solidly in the top 10 by every measure, the political establishment is still rigging the game to keep Carly off the main debate stage next month," Isgur Flores wrote.
    Their primary complaint is the number of polls CNN will be using from before the first debate as opposed to after, which Isgur Flores said skew candidates' actual position going into the debate.
    "To be clear, if Carly isn't on the main stage, it will not be because her rise in the polls can't overcome lower polling from July, but because only two of CNN's chosen polling companies have released polls at all since the first debate," she wrote. "If the RNC won't tell CNN to treat post-debate polling consistently with pre-debate polling, they are putting their thumb on the scale and choosing to favor candidates with higher polling for three weeks in July over candidates with measurable momentum in August and September."
    The RNC also said it didn't have final say over how the networks made its determinations.
    "The RNC had great success creating a more orderly debate process, but ultimately the criteria is legally left to the networks to determine," RNC press secretary Allison Moore said in a statement. "CNN's debate parameters were released in May in order ensure there was notice and awareness of the criteria well in advance of the debate."
    The jointly hosted CNN/Reagan Library debate is Sept. 16.