LAKE FOREST, Calif. Author and pastor Rick Warren has announced he won't be hosting a forum this year with President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, saying it would be "hypocritical" to host the event in light of the two campaigns' negative tone.
The pastor of Saddleback Church in California, Warren hosted a Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency in 2008 with Obama and John McCain, shortly before McCain became the Republican nominee. But the tone of this year's campaign, Warren told the Orange County Register, is even worse than 2008.
In July, Warren announced he hoped to host an Obama-Romney forum.
"We created the civil forums to promote civility and personal respect between people with major differences," Warren told the newspaper in an Aug. 23 article.
"The forums are meant to be a place where people of goodwill can seriously disagree on significant issues without being disagreeable or resorting to personal attack and name-calling. But that is not the climate of today's campaign. I've never seen more irresponsible personal attacks, mean-spirited slander, and flat-out dishonest attack ads, and I don't expect that tone to change before the election.
"It would be hypocritical to pretend civility for one evening only to have the name-calling return the next day."
Warren said he had talked "with both campaigns about the possibility of doing it again" and "they were both favorable to participating." He also said the "TV networks were eager to cover it again."
In 2008, the candidates were interviewed separately by Warren, who asked identical questions to each. McCain, who was interviewed last, was placed in a room without a monitor and not allowed to know the questions in advance.