By Jesse Byrnes
Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardSaudi skeptics gain strength in Congress Lawmakers seek answers on Pentagon employees' casino, strip club charges Man arrested for allegedly threatening Hawaii Dems MORE (D-Hawaii), a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), says she was disinvited from the first Democratic presidential debate after calling for more debates, according to a new report.
“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 said. “When I signed up to be vice chair of the D.N.C., no one told me I would be relinquishing my freedom of speech and checking it at the door.”
Gabbard and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, a fellow DNC vice-chair, have for weeks called on the DNC to hold more than the six scheduled debates. She reiterated that message last week.
An unidentified person close to the committee insisted to the Times that Gabbard was not disinvited but that an aide to DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) wanted to focus on the candidates in the debate and not a "distraction."
"The focus of the debate in Nevada as well as the other debates and forums in the coming weeks should be on the candidates who will take the stage, and their vision to move America forward," a DNC spokesperson said in a statement sent to The Hill.
"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," the spokesperson added, saying the Democratic Party embraces a diversity of opinions from members.
Gabbard told the Times that she will watch the Tuesday night debate in her district in Hawaii.
Five candidates will take to the stage in Las Vegas. Candidates such as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDebate 2016: Trump didn't win, but neither did Hillary Debate of century lives up to its billing Trump: It's not certain Russia hacked DNC MORE (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley have called for more chances to debate.
O'Malley has accused Democratic party officials of winnowing the debate schedule this cycle compared to previous years in an effort to boost front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump: Unlikely Clinton will release emails in exchange for tax returns Debate 2016: Trump didn't win, but neither did Hillary Trump doubles down: Former Miss Universe 'gained a massive amount of weight' MORE.
—Updated at 1:03 p.m.
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