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Clinton Campaign Says Sanders 'Rejected' New York 2016 Debate Dates

Hillary Clinton's campaign said Saturday that her opponent Bernie Sanders has rejected three proposed debate dates ahead of the New York primary.
Image: US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton campaigns in New York City
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gestures as she delivers an address at the Apollo Theater in the Harlem section of New York City on March 30, 2016.JASON SZENES / EPA, file

NEW YORK — Hillary Clinton's campaign said rival Bernie Sanders has rejected three proposed debate dates ahead of the New York primary on April 19 — marking the latest dustup in an increasingly heated fight for the Democratic nomination.

But Clinton told NBC's "Meet The Press" that "I'm confident we will" have a debate.

"Our campaigns are trying to reach an agreement about that. We've offered dates and we've done it over the last several weeks, so we've been trying to figure out when we could do this. But there's a lot to talk about," Clinton told moderator Chuck Todd. "I'm confident that there will be," she said in the interview.

Clinton’s campaign said in a statement Saturday that it offered April 4 as the first potential date, but the Sanders team wanted instead to schedule the debate after the Wisconsin primary on April 5. Clinton officials then suggested April 14 and April 15 as possibilities and are hopeful Sanders will come to accept one of these dates.

“The Sanders campaign needs to stop with the games,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon wrote. “The Sanders campaign needs to stop using the New York primary as a playground for political games and negative attacks against Hillary Clinton. The voters of New York deserve better.”

The proposed debate on April 15 would be on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Fallon explained, but “that, too, was rejected.”

“Unfortunately, the dates and venues [Clinton] has proposed don’t make a whole lot of sense,” Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs responded in a statement. “The idea that they want a debate in New York on a night of the NCAA finals — with Syracuse in the tournament, no less — is ludicrous. We have proposed other dates, which they have rejected. We hope we can reach agreement in the near future.”

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The championship game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament referenced by Briggs is scheduled for April 4, the initial date proposed by Clinton’s team, who says they offered a time that would have ensured that the debate ended before the game started that evening. The NCAA game’s tipoff is scheduled for 9:18 p.m. ET, and past Democratic debates have run late, rarely starting before 8 p.m. ET. It’s not clear what time the Clinton campaign proposed to avoid a debate running into the basketball game.

This is the newest tussle in a Democratic primary that has been plagued by debate drama.

Just last month, Sanders challenged Clinton to a debate in Brooklyn.

“I would hope very much that as we go into New York state, Secretary Clinton’s home state, that we will have a debate — New York City or upstate, wherever — on the important issues facing New York and, in fact, the country,” the Vermont senator told Chuck Todd in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”