WASHINGTON — Hofstra University is continuing to prepare to host the first presidential debate on Monday, Sept. 26, despite Donald Trump’s complaints that the event and another debate conflict with the airing of NFL football games, the university said Monday.
Hofstra already has secured funding for most of the $5 million cost of staging the debate at its Hempstead campus after taking the place of Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, which backed out July 19, saying it couldn’t afford the event.
Hofstra spokeswoman Karla Schuster said preparations are continuing. She declined to address Trump’s complaints and referred questions to the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonpartisan group that oversees the events.
In a statement, the commission said, “It is impossible to avoid all sporting events, and there have been nights on which debates and games occurred in most election cycles. A debate has never been rescheduled as a result.”
The commission added, “The CPD believes the dates for the 2016 debates will serve the American public well.” The dates for the three presidential debates and one vice presidential matchup were announced in September 2015.
During the weekend, Trump complained that two of the debates — including the first at Hofstra — will be broadcast at the same time as NFL games, and accused his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton of intentionally trying to “rig” the debates.
“Well, I’ll tell you what I don’t like. It’s against two NFL games. I got a letter from the NFL saying, ‘This is ridiculous,’ ” Trump said in an interview on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday.
An NFL spokesman said the NFL did not send a letter to Trump.
The debate at Hofstra is on the night of a game between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.
The second presidential debate, at Washington University in St. Louis, on Sunday, Oct. 9, occurs at the time of a televised game between the Green Bay Packers and the Carolina Panthers.
Some critics have charged that Trump is setting up a scenario to skip one or more presidential debates. They note that during the Republican primary, Trump stayed away from two scheduled Fox News debates, on Jan. 28 and March 21 (which was canceled as a result).
But on Sunday, Trump said, “But I like three debates. I think that’s fine. I think it’s enough. If somebody said, ‘one debate,’ I’d rather have three. I think they’ll be very interesting.”