The first problem with the debate-timing-conspiracy theory that Donald Trump offered over the weekend comes six words in.
If Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are trying to rig the debates, they did it back in September last year, when the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced the debates. The commission, meanwhile, successfully predicted the NFL's 2016 schedule, which was announced in April. Impressive all around.
Trump claimed to ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he'd received a letter from the NFL complaining about the fact that two of the four debates — scheduled for Sept. 26, Oct. 4, Oct. 9 and Oct. 19 — conflict with NFL games. His spokesman later admitted that wasn't true, but that a source close to the NFL had complained to Trump.
Regardless, it brings us to the second problem with Trump's conspiracy theory: If you want to, you can come up with any excuse you want to dismiss the timing of the debates.
In a statement to CNN's Brian Stelter, the commission explained how it isolates dates. "The Commission on Presidential Debates started working more than 18 months ago," it says, "to identify religious and federal holidays, baseball league playoff games, NFL games, and other events in order to select the best nights for the 2016 debates."
We made a tool that lets you exclude different categories of events. Want to exclude religious holidays? Hockey games? Minor holidays? Try it out. See how easy it is to find dates for the debates that have no conflicts.
Without seeing how you did, we'll assume it was simple. Right? No problem at all finding days without conflicts.
There's been some speculation that Trump doesn't actually want to debate Clinton. It seems safest to assume, though, that his goal here was simply to try and reinforce his sketchy argument that the system is rigged against him. To make that point, Trump could have said he got a letter from just about anyone.