Hillary Clinton has refused to debate Bernie Sanders in California ahead of the state’s June 7 primary with her campaign maintaining that the Democratic front-runner is committed to pivoting toward the general election.
"As we have said previously, we plan to compete hard in the remaining primary states, particularly California, while turning our attention to the threat a Donald Trump presidency poses," Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri said in a statement.
"We believe that Hillary Clinton's time is best-spent campaigning and meeting directly with voters across California and preparing for a general election campaign that will ensure the White House remains in Democratic hands," she continued.
Sanders called the decision "insulting" to California voters. Fox News had agreed to host the debate in San Francisco.
"I was disturbed, but not surprised that Secretary Clinton has backed out of the debate," the Vermont senator said during a rally in the state.
The Sanders campaign is pushing hard for a win in California where a whopping 548 delegates are up for grabs. But even if Sanders pulls through in the sunshine state, Clinton still maintains a significant lead over her opponent.
Clinton’s decisions to decline Fox’s debate invitation arrived a week after the former first lady declared on CNN that there is "no way" that she wouldn’t clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.
"I will be the nominee for my party," she told Chris Cuomo. "That is already done, in effect."
Clinton's decision to avoid a debate against Sanders next month walked back the promise she made in February to take the stage with her opponent before the California primary.
"Naturally, Fox News is disappointed that Secretary Clinton has declined our debate invitation, especially given that the race is still contested and she had previously agreed to a final debate before the California primary," Bill Sammon, vice president and Washington managing editor of Fox News said in a statement.
The tension between Clinton and Sanders is but a microcosm of the growing divides in the Democratic party.
Sanders announced Sunday that he was backing the challenger to Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz during her August 30 primary. He also vowed to nullify her position at the DNC should he clinch the White House in November.