RNC threatens to ban candidates from debates if they attend Iowa group’s forum

The Republican National Committee is threatening to disqualify GOP presidential candidates from RNC-sponsored debates if they participate in an Iowa forum hosted by a conservative Christian organization.

The warning comes ahead of the Family Leader Foundation’s event on Friday that the group said will include White House hopefuls sitting at a table for a “moderated, friendly and open discussion.”

In a letter obtained by NBC News, the RNC reminded candidates that they signed a pledge not to participate in debates like the one in Des Moines that aren’t sanctioned by the national party.

“Any Republican presidential candidate who participates in this or other similar events will be deemed to have violated this pledge and will be disqualified from taking part in any future RNC-sanctioned presidential primary debates,” the Oct. 28 letter said.

RealClearPolitics first reported on the letter.

The Family Leader Foundation has invited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and former President Donald Trump to participate in its forum.

DeSantis confirmed on Friday that he’ll attend the group’s event. “I’m going to be there at The Family Leader, I think it’s an important part of this process,” he said.

“I’ll be here no matter what happens, and so you guys can pencil me in for that,” he told reporters after a campaign event in Ames, Iowa.

Tricia McLauglin, a spokesperson for the Ramaswamy campaign, told NBC News in a statement that the campaign is “hopeful that RNC and the Family Leader will be able to work out their logistical issues to best serve the voters.”

Scott and Haley have not confirmed whether they plan on attending.

The Family Leader is not expecting Trump to accept the invitation, a spokesperson for the group told NBC News. Bob Vander Plaats, the group’s CEO, has been openly critical of Trump.

This is not the first time the RNC has warned candidates about non-sanctioned debates. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ramaswamy recently scrapped a planned televised debate on Fox News after the RNC intervened.

The next GOP presidential debate is scheduled for Dec. 6.

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