Inslee: DNC rejecting climate change debate is 'extremely disappointing'

DNC will not focus an entire debate on the issue

By Kate Sullivan, CNN
Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Presidential candidate Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA)

(CNN) - Presidential candidate Jay Inslee said Wednesday that the Democratic National Committee's decision not to host a debate focused on climate change is "extremely disappointing."

The Washington state governor, whose Democratic presidential bid is focused on climate change, said the decision is "totally unacceptable" and told CNN's Erin Burnett on "Erin Burnett OutFront" that "the grass roots of our party are demanding that we pay attention to this existential threat."

"This is an issue upon which life depends itself and the continued civilization that we now enjoy," Inslee said.

He said in a news release that the DNC had told his campaign, "If we participated in anyone else's climate debate, we will not be invited to future debates."

He told Burnett, "That's outrageous to me, to muzzle candidates who want to go out and have this debate."

Inslee said he hopes the DNC reconsiders, and he called on his fellow Democratic presidential candidates to join him in asking the committee to host the debate.

A spokesperson for the DNC, Xochitl Hinojosa, said in a statement, "Our goal is to provide a platform for candidates to have a vigorous discussion on ideas and solutions on the many issues that voters care about, including the economy, climate change, and health care."

"While climate change is at the top of our list, the DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue area because we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on dozens of issues of importance to American voters," the statement continued.

President Donald Trump downplayed and made false claims about climate change in a recent interview with British TV host Piers Morgan, saying, "I believe that there is a change in weather and I think it changes both ways."

Asked for his reaction to Trump's comments, Inslee said, "Woefully inadequate to the most scientifically literate nation on earth. This would be embarrassing to any nation in today's day and age, but it is doubly embarrassing to the United States."

He said the President has "belittled the clear science" -- science, Inslee pointed out, that tax dollars paid for.

"For him to continue to treat it as some trivial thing," Inslee said, "it's a little bit like, you know, laughing about cancer, because that's how serious this issue for our nation."

CNN's Dan Merica contributed to this report.

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