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Ralph Nader Criticizes the "Commercialization" of Presidential Debates

Ralph Nader spoke to WNPR at the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut.
Ryan Caron King
Ralph Nader spoke to WNPR at the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut.

Consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader doesn't like what he sees on the campaign trail this season, and said part of the problem is the media.

"By and large, the press has not risen to the level of its significance as being the only business actually protected by our constitution in the First Amendment: freedom of the press," Nader said on WNPR's Where We Live. "They've been dragged down by people like Trump and Cruz -- politicians, basically, who use slogans, and don't have substantive information for the people to use."

Nader said the public needs to be more critical of the press, particularly its handling of presidential debates -- which he said are driven more by ratings than by public interest.

"The process of presidential primaries has become commercialized; has become big business," he said. "And none of us asks the question, who the hell are these media companies deciding when there are going to be debates? Where the debates are going to be? Who's on tier one and tier two of the presidential candidates? What reporters are going to ask what questions? This is a public process. It shouldn't be determined by a commercial operation."

Instead, Nader said he'd like to see a public debate commission, which is less commercialized, more accountable to voters, and would allow for greater diversity of political opinion.

Listen below to Nader's criticism of the presidential debate system:

Nader supports Bernie Sanders's decision to run for president as a Democrat, even though he's an Independent on the Senate floor. As a Democrat, Sanders made it onto the debate stage and he doesn't have to petition his way onto the ballot.

"They would have harassed his petitioners on the street," said Nader. "They would have put fake names on the petition, then accuse him in front of the press of fraudulent petition gathering. They would have sued him in state after state to drain his resources."

How does Nader know all this? "That's what they did to me!" he said.

Listen below to Nader discuss Bernie Sanders's presidential bid:

Even though he shares some of Sanders's political positions, Nader sees holes in his foreign policy, and thinks the Vermont senator should be stronger on the military budget. Nader said that money could be better spent on domestic projects like mass transit.

Copyright 2016 Connecticut Public

Patrick Skahill is a reporter at WNPR. He covers science and the environment. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of WNPR's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.
Tucker Ives is WNPR's morning news producer.

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