The first Democratic debate produced brief bursts of Spanish oratory from the White House aspirants, but ABC News warned candidates ahead of Thursday night’s forum that the network won’t pardon their French.
The 10 competitors set to appear on stage in Houston were cautioned to “avoid cursing or expletives in accordance with federal law and FCC guidelines.” The directive from debate broadcaster ABC was sent to the Democratic National Committee earlier this week and forwarded to the participating candidates’ campaigns.
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“We wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that, as the debate will air on the ABC broadcast network, we are governed by Federal Communication Commission indecency rules,” the memo states. “We will not be broadcasting on any delay, so there will be no opportunity to edit out foul language.”
Tensions among candidates have occasionally spiked at the party’s previous two televised debates amid critiques of policy records and efforts to achieve an on-air viral moment.
It remains extremely unlikely ABC’s moderators will have to manage any swearing by the contenders vying to become the next commander in chief, but if any Democrat is in danger of flouting the network’s request, it’s Beto O’Rourke.
The former Texas congressman has adopted a less restrained attitude on the 2020 trail in the weeks since a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso — sometimes employing the F-word and other impassioned rhetoric to argue an urgent case for firearm reforms and other planks of his agenda.
Discussing gun violence earlier this month during an interview on CNN, he declared: “Yes, this is f—– up.”