Donald Trump (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

“Well, I tell you what I don’t like. It’s against two NFL games. … And I don’t think we should be against the NFL. I don’t know how the dates were picked. I don’t know why those particular dates … you know, Hillary Clinton wants to be against the NFL. She doesn’t — maybe like she did with Bernie Sanders, where they were on Saturday nights, when nobody’s home.”
— Donald Trump, interview on ABC’s “This Week,” July 31, 2016

“It’s up to the nominee of both parties to make that decision, but certainly the RNC is going to be involved in supporting our nominee and his position on this. My personal view is, is that we need to maximize the audience, and that’s going to be either a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday night. …What we’re saying is: Having a debate on a Sunday night or a Monday night is not the ideal time. And we should revisit it.”
— Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” July 31, 2016

Once again, it’s time for a debate over the presidential debates.

Donald Trump and his allies have suggested that there is something wrong about the dates that have been chosen for the presidential debates by the nonpartisan Commission of Presidential Debates — perhaps a deliberate effort to suppress viewership by scheduling two of the debates at the same time as National Football League games on Sunday and Monday. Here’s a tweet by former House speaker Newt Gingrich:

For the record, neither political party had a role in setting the debate schedule. The dates were announced Sept. 23, 2015, four months before the first primary contests. The NFL schedule for 2016-2017 was not in place then, either.

Moreover, it is not unusual for a presidential debate to be held on a Sunday or Monday, in conflict with NFL games, or on a Friday. Only one debate round — in 2000 — took place only on mid-week days. No presidential debates since 1992 have been held on a Saturday night.

Here are the dates for the debates since 1992, along with audience ratings. In all but one case — 1996 — a debate held on a Sunday, Monday or Friday received somewhat lower viewership than debates held in the middle of the week, based on data from Nielsen Media Research.

1992
Oct. 11 (Sunday) — 62.4 million
Oct. 14 (Thursday) — 69.9 million
Oct. 19 (Monday) — 66.9 million
Oct. 13 (VP — Tuesday) — 51.2 million

1996
Oct. 6 (Sunday) — 46.1 million
Oct. 16 (Wednesday) — 36.3 million
Oct. 9 (VP — Wednesday) — 26.6 million

2000
Oct. 3 (Tuesday) — 46.6 million
Oct. 11 (Wednesday) — 37.5 million
Oct. 17 (Tuesday) — 37.7 million
Oct. 5 (VP — Thursday) — 28.5 million

2004
Sept. 30 (Thursday) — 62.4 million
Oct. 8 (Friday) — 46.7 million
Oct. 13 (Wednesday) — 51.1 million
Oct. 5 (VP-Tuesday) — 43.5 million

2008
Sept. 26 (Friday) — 52.4 million
Oct. 7 (Thursday) — 63.2 million
Oct. 15 (Wednesday) — 56.5 million
Oct. 2 (VP — Thursday) — 69.9 million

2012
Oct. 3 (Wednesday) — 67.2 million
Oct. 16 (Tuesday) — 65.6 million
Oct. 22 (Monday) — 59.2 million
Oct. 11 (VP — Thursday) — 51.4 million

2016 (proposed)
Sept. 26 (Monday)
Oct. 9 (Sunday)
Oct. 19 (Wednesday)
Oct. 4 (VP-Tuesday)
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