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Gary Johnson Snubbed in CNN GOP Presidential Debate

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #688)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

CNN held its first televised debate among Republican presidential candidates Monday tonight, but while the cable news network issued invitations to several non- or yet-to-announce candidates, it excluded one announced candidate who meets the criteria for inclusion. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, an avowed and articulate opponent of drug prohibition, was not invited to participate, and his campaign and supporters are crying foul.

Gov. Gary Johnson -- you didn't see him on CNN for the debate. (Image via
CNN, along with WMUR-TV and the Manchester Union-Leader, the debate cosponsors, set the bar for an invitation at the candidate having received an average of at least 2% in at least three national polls during the month of May. According to the Johnson campaign, Johnson has met that hurdle, polling an average of precisely 2% in three national polls last month.

"It is our hope that CNN will review the criteria that has excluded two-term Governor Gary Johnson from the New Hampshire debate," said senior Johnson campaign advisor Ron Nielson on Saturday. "Now that this information has come to light, we look forward to receiving an invitation for Governor Johnson to participate."

But CNN didn't change its mind. Instead, the network presented front-runner former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Godfather's Pizza entrepreneur Herman Cain, non-announced candidate  (until her announcement during the debate itself) Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Most of the invitations were well-justified. According to Real Clear Politics' aggregate poll data (which also does not include Johnson) all of the invitees are above 2%, although Santorum, at 3.2% overall, only averaged 2.67% in three May polls. Up until debate time non-announced candidate Bachmann is averaging 5.1%, although that's a decline from her May poll average of 7%.

Still, why Johnson was excluded even though he has officially announced and meets the debate criteria remains a mystery. CNN said it only wanted "serious" candidates with at least 2% of the vote, but also admitted it failed to include Johnson in its own polls.

Well, Republican-leaning drug reformers at least had Ron Paul to listen to.

(This article was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Unbelievable. So criminal. Anyone who still thinks Ron Paul and other liberty-minded candidates like Johnson are unelectable DON'T FALL FOR THE JEDI MINDTRICK!! Liberty IS electable.


Ron Paul (and other true patriots) in 2012 or we're going to get exactly what we deserve.

Mon, 06/13/2011 - 11:47pm Permalink
sfoxloken (not verified)

In reply to by Political Athiest (not verified)

Being anti choice for women's reproductive health is NOT "liberty minded"! I find it amusing that so many call themselves Libertarians but fail to adhere to that principle regarding the basic right of all people to control their own bodies. Ron Paul is not a true lover of liberty, only the liberty HE agrees with....selective liberty. He will never get my vote until he applies his same logic to reproductive issues as he does to the drug war and economic issues.

Fri, 06/17/2011 - 7:07pm Permalink
tvuser666 (not verified)

It's already a long shot for him. So why make it even harder on him. Gary Johnson is 10 times better then any of these guys except for Ron Paul. It's insane that you would  have a plan to get this country on the go again. But just because he supports gay marriage and a woman's right to choice and for common sense drug policy that makes you unelectable But then you have some asshole who would just run up massive debts and start two wars that guy is electable. What the fuck is up with republicans. You guy are losing the gay marriage debate so get used to it. Also you lost the abortion debate 40 years ago. That isn't going to change. Now stop acting like little children and elect someone who actually gives a shit about are children's future. Instead of some Jesus loving redneck cowboy.

Tue, 06/14/2011 - 1:41am Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by tvuser666 (not verified)

It was NOT the Republicans who excluded Gary Johnson, it was CNN -- the media.  NEVER trust the mainstream media, they will do ALL they can to get another big government candidate elected.  If we want a Ron Paul or Gary Johnson for president, we have to counteract the MSM messages that that type of candidate is unelectable.  We cannot let the media tell us who is and is not electable, not any more, not ever again!

It wouldn't hurt to start a letter/email/phone call campaign telling CNN how we feel about this exclusion and perhaps we can, in this way, decrease their unhealthy influence on debates and elections.

Tue, 06/14/2011 - 3:02am Permalink
B. Snow (not verified)

I used to watch and like CNN (a couple years ago, that is)

These days I only tune in to see Elliot Spitzer's show ("In the Arena" -much better without Kathleen Parker aka "Parker-Spitzer". IDK what happened with that change but its was a good call IMO) - I don't always catch  his show (sometimes/semi-often) because I live in the Central timezone & watching something else in the 1st hour of primetime at 7pm CST - and it's the one show CNN  doesn't repeat 3 times a night??? (Piers Morgan & is ok but 2 replays a night?)

Not sure what it is.. But I really don't like John King or Anderson Cooper much anymore - they've gotten kinda preachy & judgmental and/or conservative = like I said, I don't know exactly why(?) they just get on my nerves or something. Aside from Spitzer CNN seems to have gone 'Socially Conservative' & I just don't like that... John King (& his wife Dana), Sanjay Gupta, plus Anderson Cooper (with the obvious exception of gay rights on AC's part) - seem to be leading that move to the Center-Right.

Plus copious coverage of the Gulf oil spill, the Haiti earthquake, other random disasters/or tragedies, Japan, tornadoes, AND whatever happens next...


SO, I while got tired of watching natural disasters 24/7 (most of the time/more often than not) and I found MSNBC and Way Too Early+Morning Joe, and the evening shows Hardball w/ Chris Mathews & Rachel Maddow, and others throughout the day = The Daily Rundown, Jansing & Co., Dylan Ratigan, and recently Martin Bashir, Cenk Uygur, Lawrence O'Donnell.


It's gotten to the point where I watch it most of the day:

Major Exceptions = The Daily Show w/ Jon Stewart, & The Colbert Report. Syndicated reruns of 'The Unit', or stuff like Jericho, LOST, Heroes, whatever I run across.

All that stuff and the occasional 'Syfy' show but they're leaving Sci-fi - 'Scripted Drama TV' behind for 'Reality-TV' I mean wrestling on Friday nights?? But they're still showing great re-runs of SG-1, SGA, SGU, StarTrek- TNG/etc. Along w/ a handful of "Greenscreen Sci-fi" like Sanctuary, Eureka, Warehouse 13, etc.  FWIW, BBC America is the often the place to go for good Sci-Fi these days = Dr.Who, ST;TNG, & coming soon BSG!

Anywho 8^) , CNN choosing to dis Gary Johnson may comeback to haunt them. I lived in New Mexico for almost 4 years of his first term as Governor there and he rocked (relatively speaking) In fact, Johnson is the only candidate of those recently polled, including Bachmann, Cain Palin, Romney, that is popular in their home state (Rep. Paul was not included for some strange reason)!?  (I know right?)

Personally I doubt Johnson will be nominated as the Republican candidate this time & I'll likely ending up backing the President for another term - but I'm already thinking about changing my voter registration to participate in the Rep. Primary Vote in 2016!

Tue, 06/14/2011 - 7:04am Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by B. Snow (not verified)

should Ron Paul get the nomination, if he names Johnson as his running mate.  The two are so similar in thought and deed, he's Ron's logical choice since Judge Napolitano isn't likely to want to be VP (and whose show "Freedom Watch" everyone who supports the end of the war on drugs should be watching on FOX Business channel,every weekday).

Tue, 06/14/2011 - 1:15pm Permalink

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