Trump challenges Clinton to debate without a moderator

Debate should not have moderator: Trump

Complaining about being treated unfairly by the moderators before the presidential debates with Hillary Clinton even begin, Republican nominee Donald Trump told CNBC on Monday the system was being "rigged."

"I think we should have a debate with no moderator, just Hillary and I sitting there talking," Trump offered on "Squawk Box," predicting he's going to be "treated very, very unfairly."

Making his case, Trump said debate moderators will try to be extra tough, because of the criticism that NBC's Matt Lauer was too "easy on me," during the network's Commander-In-Chief Forum last week.

"Well, [Lauer] wasn't. I thought he was very professional. I have to be honest, I think he's been treated very unfairly," Trump added, in reference to the NBC forum, during which the candidates were interviewed separately on stage one right after the other.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to Matt Lauer during the Commander in Chief Forum in Manhattan, New York, September 7, 2016.
Mike Segar | Reuters

"Now the new person is going to try to really be hard on Trump to show the establishment what he can do," Trump argued. "They are gaming the system so that when I go into the debate [with Clinton] I'm going to be treated very, very unfairly by the moderators."

Trump invoked Bobby Knight, the legendary Indiana University basketball coach, to make his point. Trump said Knight, a supporter of the billionaire's candidacy, used to berate the referees all game to try to get them to award favorable calls.

Critics blasted Lauer like Knight did the referees, in hopes of swaying the moderators to be harder on him at the debates, Trump said.

"I think the system is being rigged so it's going to be a very unfair debate," he added. "I think, maybe we should have no moderator, and let Hillary and I sit there and just debate."

Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said the Democratic nominee was looking forward to the debates as an "important proving ground" for anyone who wanted to be president.

"Especially given that Fox has been selected to moderate a debate for the first time ever, it's time for Donald Trump to end his debate shenanigans and formally agree to debate," Fallon said.

The first of three presidential debates will be moderated by NBC's Lester Holt on Sept. 26 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. The two other debates will be held next month in St. Louis on Oct. 9 and Las Vegas on Oct. 19.

The Commission on Presidential Debates did not respond to a request for comment.