Republican presidential campaign staffers were set to gather on Sunday night to discuss how they would like the primary debates to change, following the party’s harsh criticism of the most recent debate.
Frontrunner Ben Carson’s campaign team organized the meeting after last week’s CNBC-hosted debate, which led candidates to accuse the news network of asking “gotcha” questions.
On Sunday, ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked Carson whether he thought the debates presented an opportunity for the press to challenge presidential hopefuls.
“There’s a place and time for that,” he said, “but as far as I’m concerned these debates are to highlight the differences in philosophy between the candidates – particularly when you have as many candidates as we have now.”
The retired neurosurgeon, who is running with the real estate billionaire Donald Trump at the top of polls concerning the 15-strong field, said debates were not meant to examine candidate’s positions on issues or past statements and policies.
“You know, you can spend forever combing back through somebody’s history saying, ‘1942, didn’t you say…’ Come on, give me a break, we need to mature in the way that we do these debates if they’re going to be useful to the American people.”
Two days after the CNBC event in Boulder, Colorado, the Republican National Committee said it was suspending its partnership with NBC News, which was due to host a debate in February.
Carson, whose campaign organized the meeting, said after the debate it had “so clearly demonstrated a need for change in format”.
In the view of Carson’s team, that change should include more time for candidates to provide lengthy responses to questions. He also wants debates to air exclusively online, not on television, according to anonymous sources quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
The next debate, in Milwaukee on 10 November, will be hosted by Fox Business Network.