Former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez would not affirm his previous statement that the 2016 Democratic primary was "rigged" during Wednesday night's debate between candidates vying to chair the Democratic National Committee.
Perez, a former Obama administration official and frontrunner to head the DNC, dodged a question three times when asked by CNN's Chris Cuomo if the primary was rigged.
Cuomo asked Perez about his recent claim that the Democratic Party worked against Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I., Vt.) presidential bid.
"Secretary Perez, recently you said that the primary was rigged against Bernie Sanders. Later the same day you said you misspoke when you made those comments. Which is it?" Cuomo asked.
"Well, you know, here are the facts," Perez said. "Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary. Hillary Clinton also won the popular vote. At the same time, because of the absence of transparency in the Democratic primary, there was a crisis of trust that ensued. And what we need in the chair of the Democratic Party is to make sure that in fact, and in perception, every single day, you are fair and neutral. That's why when you asked a question before about primaries, you have to let that primary process go."
"If I were the chair–if I have the privilege of winning, for instance, one of the things I would recommend would be that we set the primary debate schedule long in advance of when we know who the candidates are," Perez continued. "We have to do everything to make sure we're fair and transparent. And it's not only in how we set the primary process; the DNC is black hole. And we have a crisis of confidence because it is. And that's why the leader of the DNC needs to make sure–"
"Hold on a second. Secretary, 10 seconds, was it rigged or not?" Cuomo interjected.
"Again, the process, because of the absence of transparency, it created that crisis of relevance and it created the distrust that people didn't trust the outcome," Perez said in an apparent dodge.
Cuomo then asked another candidate, Sam Ronan, a U.S. Air Force veteran, if the primary was rigged.
"Not only was the primary rigged, but also rigged across the country," Ronan responded. "Because the DNC has never allowed outsiders or brand new people to rise through the ranks. And it's always been an insider game and it has been that way for a very, very long time. That is where the lack of trust has come into play, because not only was Bernie Sanders snubbed, not only did it look like Hillary Clinton had bought or muscled her way into it, then those supporters were denied the chance to speak at the convention, and that was the final straw."
"If people don't have a voice, an equitable voice like alluded to earlier, then people are not going to trust the system and they are going to go out of their way to break it," Ronan added.
Cuomo then asked Perez one more time if he believes the primary was rigged.
"Secretary Perez, is Mr. Ronan wrong?" Cuomo asked.
"Well, again, you know, we meet every single day as leader of the Labor Department, leader of the Civil Rights Division, and I hope to be leader of the Democratic Party. We have to do everything in transparent fashion and when you do that, you earn trust," Perez said. "Trust isn't something you're given. It's something you earn."
Ronan then responded to Perez, arguing that was his way of saying "no."