Officials from Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's campaign said they are reviewing options to participate in an upcoming forum on veterans issues, but no decisions have been finalized.  

On Thursday, officials from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America reiterated plans to include Johnson as part of a series of public conversations with potential commanders in chief, but not necessarily as part of the major televised forum set for Wednesday in New York.

"The conversation focused on veterans should not end on September 7th and with the major party candidates," group officials said in a statement. "As a non-partisan organization with an extremely politically diverse membership we are committed to expanding the public conversation about the issues facing veterans with any viable candidate for president as often as possible."

The move has enraged some of Johnson's supporters, who are rallying online activists to downvote IAVA's Facebook page and other social media accounts, and have urged donors to withdraw their support unless the third-party hopeful is given equal billing at the event with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Several have called the veterans group's moves "censorship" and called for its nonprofit status to be revoked.

Following the IAVA announcement, Johnson campaign communications director Joe Hunter said staff are working with the veterans group and broadcast partners to find "an appropriate opportunity" for the former New Mexico governor to discuss veterans issues.

He also said the campaign does not see the process so far as a slight to Johnson, who also has not been invited to the nationally televised presidential debates scheduled for the final weeks of the race.

"IAVA is a private organization and it is not for us to try to dictate what they do," Hunter said. "What's important is for us to have an opportunity to communicate with veterans and let them know that a ticket comprised of two experienced, serious candidates, will seriously address veterans' issues and needs."

Hunter said Johnson and IAVA CEO Paul Rieckhoff spoke on the phone Thursday, and the presidential candidate thanked the group for its outreach.

"Gov. Johnson applauded the work of IAVA and other leading (veterans groups) in America who are giving voice to the nation’s veterans, and reiterated his desire that supporters of his candidacy show respect and similar appreciation for that good work," Hunter said.

When asked about the online protests, Hunter said that "we are not encouraging our supporters to harass anyone. We don't do that."

Johnson has hovered around 10 percent in most national polls, far behind both Clinton and Trump. But he has fared well in some military-specific surveys, including one conducted by Military Times in July. IAVA officials referenced that survey as a reason for including him in a forum series on veterans issues.

Wednesday's event is scheduled to air on NBC at 8 p.m. Eastern, with Clinton and Trump appearing separately to respond to questions on veterans and military policy. "Today" show host Matt Lauer will moderate the event.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at


Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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