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RFK Jr. Threatens CNN Employees With 'Jail Time' After He's Excluded From Debate

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

After CNN announced that RFK Jr. would be excluded from the next week's presidential debate, Kennedy threatened 'prosecution' and 'serious jail time.'

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. expressed strong disapproval of CNN's decision to exclude him from the upcoming debate featuring President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, threatening the network's staff with "prosecution" and "serious jail time."

According to CNN, Kennedy failed to meet the criteria necessary to participate in the debate. These requirements included receiving at least 15% support in a minimum of four qualifying polls and securing his name on enough state ballots to feasibly earn 270 electoral college votes, the threshold needed to win the presidency.

Kennedy’s campaign has been actively working to meet these criteria, with his name currently appearing on ballots in Delaware, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Utah, and potential listings in California and Hawaii. This gives him access to 100 electoral votes, far short of the necessary 270.

When asked for a comment, a CNN representative referred to their reporting on the event’s requirements, which had been established in mid-May.

But an angry Kennedy labeled the move as “undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly" and in a statement claimed CNN's actions were not only illegal but also placed the network and its involved employees at risk of "prosecution" under campaign finance laws:

“CNN, and every member of CNN who is participating in planning, executing, and holding this debate, is at risk of prosecution, as happened to Michael Cohen, for violating campaign finance laws."
"This risk is now acute given that any further violation would be knowing and willful, and thus could carry with it serious jail time.”

Kennedy’s exclusion from the debate led him to accuse CNN of yielding to demands from Biden and Trump, whom he claims do not want him on the debate stage:

“Presidents Biden and Trump do not want me on the debate stage and CNN illegally agreed to their demand. Americans want an independent leader who will break apart the two-party duopoly."
"They want a President who will heal the divide, restore the middle class, unwind the war machine, and end the chronic disease epidemic.”

Kennedy's campaign has vowed to challenge CNN's decision, with plans to pursue the issue “for as long as it takes to obtain justice against these illegal acts.” The campaign had already filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on May 28 alleging that the setup of the June 27 presidential debate was illegal.

His campaign added the following:

"CNN has persisted in this approach even after FEC made clear the phrase 'presumptive nominee' is 'not in the FEC’s debate regulation,' and therefore it cannot exempt CNN from the prohibition on excessive campaign contributions. As the Commission on Presidential Debates explains, 'Until the conventions take place, we don’t know who the official nominees will be.'”
"This means CNN, and every member of CNN who is participating in planning, executing, and holding this debate, is at risk of prosecution, as happened to Michael Cohen, for violating campaign finance laws. This risk is now acute given that any further violation would be knowing and willful, and thus could carry with it serious jail time."
"CNN and its staff are on clear notice, especially given the damning evidence that the Biden campaign has openly demanded Kennedy be excluded from the debates and Trump received assurances from CNN that Kennedy would be excluded."

Kennedy also published a video to X, formerly Twitter, in which he accused Biden and Trump of having "colluded with CNN to rig the debate rules and block my participation so they don’t have to answer tough questions about the lockdowns, the $34 trillion national debt, the chronic disease epidemic, or the toxic polarization that drives their campaigns."

He appealed to his supporters for donations, expressing his desire to "blast my campaign’s message through the censorship complex."

The reaction from the infamous conspiracy theorist opened him up to significant criticism.

Trump campaign national press secretary Karoline Leavitt said in a statement that Trump "said repeatedly he had no problem debating RFK Jr. and he believes any candidate who qualifies for the ballot should be allowed to make their case to America’s voters."

Leavitt added:

“It’s Joe Biden and the Democrats who are using financial and legal resources to prevent RFK’s access to the ballot because they know RFK Jr. is a radical leftist who pulls more votes from Biden than President Trump.”

Kennedy has leveraged the possibility of being excluded from the debate stage to argue that the election is biased against political outsiders. His campaign has booked $100,000 in TV ads for the day of the debate.

He could still qualify for the September 10 debate, hosted by ABC News. This debate will follow the same ballot access and polling criteria as CNN's, though it is not yet clear when the polling window will open. This gives Kennedy extra time to get his name on more ballots nationwide.

According to new filings, Kennedy's campaign raised $2.6 million in May and had just over $6.4 million in cash on hand at the month's end, a modest amount compared to the substantial fundraising efforts of his two main rivals.

The documents reveal that his team spent $6.3 million in May, focusing on gaining ballot access across the country and securing a spot in next week’s debate. Approximately $2.7 million of that expenditure went to a consulting firm specializing in ballot access.

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