Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is hosting its first ever presidential forum on September 7, but will not be inviting Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson to the event that will be televised on NBC and MSNBC. Vocal veterans have taken to social media to lambaste the veteran advocacy organization over their choice to leave Gary Johnson out of the town hall-style forum.
The IAVA presidential forum will feature Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, even though both Trump and Clinton poll lower than Johnson among active duty voters and Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
The forum will "focus exclusively on issues the next president will have to confront as Commander-in-Chief," according to IAVA, but some veterans say the event will exclude the candidate they most want to hear from.
An article in Reason stated that Johnson is preferred among veterans and active duty military personnel because he is "far less likely than Trump or Clinton to create more combat veterans," citing Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson's platform.
Why isn't @GovGaryJohnson being included in @iava's "Commander-in-Chief" forum? https://t.co/R9ODYIoNXzJohnson has at least 38 percent of the active duty vote, while Trump has just under 31 percent. Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is hanging by a thread among active duty voters at just over 14 percent in a Doctrine Man survey, according to The Hill.
— reason (@reason) August 26, 2016
According to Military Times, a spokesman for IAVA said they are looking into the matter, but declined to answer other questions. Meanwhile, NBC spokesman Mark Kornblau told Military Times that Gary Johnson will be invited to participate in a separate event to be aired on MSNBC "in the near future."
@NBC & @IAVA keeping @GovGaryJohnson separate from @HillaryClinton & @RealDonaldTrump unacceptable! #EqualCoverage"IAVA is proud to lead this historic event for our veterans community and all Americans," Founder and Chief Executive Officer of IAVA Paul Rieckhoff said. "On the cusp of the 15th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, New York is a fitting stage to give voice to American veterans and service members that are all too often shut out of our political debate. IAVA members world-wide, 93% of whom say they'll be voting in November, and many deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, are ready to hear from the candidates and hold them accountable."
— SOFL4Johnson (@SOFL4Johnson) August 27, 2016
@iava @NBCNews @MSNBC Keep this in mind. #JohnsonWeld2016???????? pic.twitter.com/dkfSQGBIlvSome veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan say that Rieckhoff and IAVA are not representing them though. The former service members and active duty military members are leaving highly opinionated one star reviews on the organization's Facebook page.
— Gary Johnson (@FauxGaryJohnson) August 19, 2016
"I'm a former officer and Iraq veteran," Tad Griffith wrote, leaving a one star review. "There is strong evidence they don't represent Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans' interests. Why? Because their Commander in Chief forum/event with Trump & Clinton excludes the 2nd most popular candidate for president among veterans... Gary Johnson. If you don't know who that is, he's running for president and is polling higher than both Trump & Clinton amongst Active Duty military. He's beating out Clinton amongst veterans, too."
"What baffles me even more is your reasoning by saying he hasn't reached a 15% avg in the national polls while he still leads amongst veteran and military voters and is on the ballot in all 50 states," Steven M. DeWeese said. "Last time I checked, you're supposed to be advocates for veterans, not the rest of the U.S. population."
Veterans are using the hashtag #IAVAFeelTheJohnson among others to support Johnson on social media.
"Forget this organization. Do not donate. A real veteran group would be politically unbiased," David Caggy wrote. "There is no doubt in my mind that this group has their own political agenda in mind otherwise they would add Gary Johnson to their commander in chief forum. According to a recent poll among veterans and active duty service members he is more desired for president than either Clinton or Trump. You can't advocate for veterans and leave Johnson out of this forum."
OEF Combat veteran Michael Vroman says he is highly disappointed that IAVA claims to represent Iraq and Afghanistan, but then uses the titles earned by veterans to push "partisan politics."
@iava Engaging Gov Johnson on Veteran Mental Health & Suicide issues! #VetsRising #CNNtownhall pic.twitter.com/PDp3i8OEGBDo you think Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson should be included in the IAVA Commander-in-Chief forum?
— Maran Shaker (@MaranShaker84) August 4, 2016