Bernie Sanders calls it an "insult" to the people of California while many others consider it a promise broken.
With no apparent upside for her campaign and despite an agreement earlier this year, Hillary Clinton has said she will not participate in a debate with Sanders in California ahead of that state's crucial primary next month.
"We believe that Hillary Clinton's time is best spent campaigning and meeting directly with voters across California and preparing for a general election campaign that will ensure the White House remains in Democratic hands," Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton's communications director, said in a statement.
"Democracy, and respect for the voters of California, would suggest that there should be a vigorous debate in which the voters may determine whose ideas they support. I hope Secretary Clinton reconsiders her unfortunate decision to back away from her commitment to debate." —Bernie SandersDespite not yet securing the nomination, Clinton irked many of her rival's supporters, especially those in states who have not yet voted in the primary, by claiming the nominating process was essentially "already done." Voters in California—in addition to those in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota—head to the polls on Tuesday, June 7.
The San Francisco Chronicle, which had offered to co-host a debate in the state, described Clinton's decision as a "broken promise" while a spokesperson for Fox News, which had hoped to produce the event, said the network was "disappointed that Secretary Clinton has declined our debate invitation, especially given that the race is still contested and she had previously agreed to a final debate before the California primary."
In response, Sanders issued a statement saying he was "disappointed but not surprised by Secretary Clinton's unwillingness to debate before the largest primary and most important primary in the presidential nominating process."
Sanders continued: "The state of California and the United States face some enormous crises. Democracy, and respect for the voters of California, would suggest that there should be a vigorous debate in which the voters may determine whose ideas they support. I hope Secretary Clinton reconsiders her unfortunate decision to back away from her commitment to debate."
Subsequently, during a rally at a high school in southern California, Sanders went further by calling Clinton's refusal to debate an affront to California voters.
"I think it's a little insulting to the people of California—the largest state," Sanders told thousands of people during a rally at Santa Monica High School. "She is not prepared to have a discussion with me about how she is going to help California address the major crises we face."
According to the Los Angeles Times, the crowd responded by chanting: "She's scared! She's scared!"
For Sanders' part, he suggested to the crowd—given his recent string of wins, Clinton's slippage in national standings, and poll after poll showing him doing much better head-to-head against Donald Trump—that Clinton might be getting a "little nervous" about how the primary race will conclude.
And, as he said in his statement, "Secretary Clinton may want to be not quite so presumptuous about thinking that she is a certain winner. In the last several weeks, the people of Indiana, West Virginia and Oregon have suggested otherwise."
On Twitter, many expressed dismay that Clinton had decided to deprive the people of California (and the other states yet to vote) the opportunity to hear the candidates address the issues one final time: