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‘This Is Cold…and Pretty Rotten’: Why DNC Vice Chairwoman Claims She Was Uninvited From the First Debate

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"No one told me I would be relinquishing my freedom of speech."

Rep. Tusli Gabbard (D-Hawaii) will be watching the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Tuesday on TV from her home district.

Why? The vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee told the New York Times she was uninvited.

“It’s very dangerous when we have people in positions of leadership who use their power to try to quiet those who disagree with them,” Gabbard told the Times. “When I signed up to be vice chair of the DNC, no one told me I would be relinquishing my freedom of speech and checking it at the door.”

In September, Gabbard and R.T. Rybak, former Minneapolis mayor and a DNC vice chairman, called for more than six debates among Democratic presidential candidates in the primaries.

The state where Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will meet to debate on Tuesday, Oct. 13, for the first time is evidence of why she's still the front-runner. Clinton has staff organizing on the ground for months in Nevada and they know how to navigate the state's baroque caucus system. (AP /Charlie Neibergall)

The decision of the DNC to limit the number of debates to only six, Gabbard and Rybak wrote could leave people feeling "excluded from our political process, rather than included."

"We believe that the DNC’s decision to limit Presidential candidates to 6 debates, with a threat of exclusion for any candidate who participates in any non-DNC sanctioned debate, is a mistake," they said. "It limits the ability of the American people to benefit from a strong, transparent, vigorous debate between our Presidential candidates, as they make the important decision of who will be our Democratic Presidential nominee."

Gabbard was discussing this topic on MSNBC over the weekend, the Times reported, and the next day, she said, she received a message from the chief of staff for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.),  DNC chairwoman, about attending the debate hosted by CNN in Nevada Tuesday.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign manager offered Gabbard a ticket to Tuesday debate on CNN. (AP/Michael Dwyer)

A person the Times described as "close to the committee" though told the newspaper, Gabbard was not uninvited.

"The DNC team wanted this first debate to have all the focus on the candidates," this person told the newspaper. "Gabbard’s people were told that if they couldn’t commit to that, since Tulsi was trying to publicly divide the DNC leadership last week, then they should consider not coming."

DNC spokeswoman Holly Shulman also told the Times that the committee believes the debates should focus on the candidates.

"All that was asked of Ms. Gabbard’s staff was to prioritize our candidates and this important opportunity they have to introduce themselves to the American people," Shulman told the Times.

Many of the democratic presidential candidates, like Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, have called for more debates. So far, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, O�Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee are scheduled to participate in the officially sanctioned forums.(AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Fox News' Greta Van Susteren tweeted "this is cold...and pretty rotten," linking the Times' article.

Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), told CNN Monday morning that Gabbard could get a ticket from him.

"If she needs a ticket, have her give me a call," Weaver said on CNN. "I think we have a couple; we can give her one."

Sanders, CNN noted, has also called for more debates, along with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Front page image via Shutterstock.

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