Former President Donald Trump on Thursday mocked independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for failing to meet the requirements to appear at the first presidential debate hosted by CNN. Recorded aboard Trump's private jet, the video addressed reports that Kennedy had insufficient support in national polls and did not appear on enough state ballots to earn a spot on the debate stage.

"I know RFK Jr. wants to try to get onto the stage on Thursday, and I'd love to have him frankly, because I don't think he's much of a debater, and he's got some very liberal, radical left ideas," Trump said. "But you have to get certain numbers, that was the criteria, and he's way below those numbers. He's not coming close."

Trump continued, "So I hope to see him up there someday, but it looks to me like he's not going to qualify on many fronts. They say he hurts Biden more than he hurts me, and I don't know if that's true or not. They say he hurts Biden because he's a serious left person. If he is, that's good - I don't really care."

To qualify for the debate, candidates were required to receive at least 15% support in four separate national polls and be on the ballot in enough states to hypothetically collect the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win the election. According to CNN, Kennedy, the highest-performing candidate outside the Republican and Democratic parties, failed to meet these criteria by the Thursday morning deadline.

"You have to do better than six or seven points. Maybe someday he'll be there, but I doubt it," Trump concluded in his video.

In response, Kennedy issued a statement accusing Presidents Biden and Trump of colluding to keep him off the debate stage. "Presidents Biden and Trump do not want me on the debate stage and CNN illegally agreed to their demand," Kennedy said. "My exclusion by Presidents Biden and Trump from the debate is undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly."

Kennedy further criticized the exclusion as a violation of federal law and indicated that his campaign would pursue legal action. "If the debate goes forward without Mr. Kennedy, the Kennedy campaign intends to pursue this issue for as long as it takes to obtain justice against these illegal acts, if for no other reason than to ensure this type of undemocratic and un-American conduct does not occur again in the future," his campaign stated.

CNN confirmed that Kennedy did not qualify for the debate, stating that he only managed to achieve the necessary 15% support in three national polls and had not secured ballot access in enough states to meet the 270 electoral vote threshold.

The situation has highlighted the difficulties faced by independent candidates in gaining traction within the highly polarized political landscape of the United States. Despite his efforts, Kennedy's inability to meet the debate criteria underscores the significant barriers non-major party candidates must overcome to participate in national political discourse.

Trump's taunting of Kennedy is consistent with his combative campaign style, which often involves ridiculing opponents and highlighting their shortcomings. However, the former president's remarks also reveal a strategic calculation: by pointing out that Kennedy's absence might hurt Biden more than himself, Trump is leveraging the dynamics of the current political landscape to his advantage.

The debate, set for June 27, will feature a head-to-head confrontation between Trump and Biden, the presumptive nominees of their respective parties. This face-off marks the first of the cycle and is expected to set the tone for the upcoming election season. The last cycle's debates between Trump and Biden were characterized by heated exchanges, interruptions, and clashes with moderators, and the upcoming debate is likely to follow a similar pattern.