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Rand Paul didn’t qualify for the Republican varsity debate. CNN put him in anyway.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Republican debate structure has been a national joke from the start. The undercard is an embarrassment, allowing struggling candidates onto a stage that they haven’t earned. Not only that, two of the news networks who have hosted debates have changed the rules to let candidates qualify for the main debate who aren’t winning the required level of support. It happened once with Fox News. CNN later did it for Carly Fiorina. Tonight, CNN is doing it again, for Senator Paul.

The neo-libertarian from Kentucky will be on the main stage, despite not polling high enough by CNN’s own standards. Each candidate needed to be polling at 3.5 percent nationwide, or at least 4 percent in Iowa or New Hampshire. Paul didn’t meet any of those marks, but CNN has him on that far-right podium due to “new polling released this morning and in the spirit of being as inclusive as possible,” per a CNN spokesman.

But the “new polling” CNN cited still didn’t qualify Paul for the debate. Rachel Maddow criticized CNN last night, arguing that not only did the network violate its own standards to twist the debate stage to their liking, but that they went even further for some unknown reason. “I don’t mean to be weird,” she said last night on her MSNBC show, “but they have been—I hesitate to say lying, but they’ve been lying about this on their own air for a couple of days now and I really don’t understand why.” Neither do I.