News organisations urge Joe Biden and Donald Trump to agree to debates

14 April 2024, 21:44

Elections 2024 Media Debates
Elections 2024 Media Debates. Picture: PA

Asked on March 8 whether he would commit to a debate with Mr Trump, Mr Biden said, “it depends on his behaviour”.

Twelve news organisations have urged presumptive presidential nominees Joe Biden and Donald Trump to agree to debates, saying they were a “rich tradition” that have been part of every campaign since 1976.

While Mr Trump, who did not participate in debates for the Republican nomination, has indicated a willingness to take on his 2020 rival, the Democratic president has not committed to debating him again.

Although invitations have not been formally issued, the news organisations said it was not too early for each campaign to say publicly that it will participate in the three presidential and one vice presidential forums set by the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

“If there is one thing Americans can agree on during this polarised time, it is that the stakes of this election are exceptionally high,” the organisations said in a joint statement.

Elections 2024 Media Debates
Joe Biden, right, answers a question as Donald Trump listens during the second and final presidential debate in 2020 (Morry Gash/AP)

“Amidst that backdrop, there is simply no substitute for the candidates debating with each other, and before the American people, their visions for the future of our nation.”

ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, PBS, NBC, NPR and The Associated Press all signed the letter.

Mr Biden and Mr Trump debated twice in 2020. A third debate was cancelled after Mr Trump, then president, tested positive for Covid-19 and would not debate remotely.

Asked on March 8 whether he would commit to a debate with Mr Trump, Mr Biden said, “it depends on his behaviour”.

The president was visibly fed up with his opponent in the first 2020 debate, at one point saying: “Will you shut up?”

Trump campaign managers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita said in a letter last week that “we have already indicated President Trump is willing to debate anytime, any place and anywhere — and the time to start these debates is now”.

They cited the seven 1858 Illinois Senate debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, saying “certainly today’s America deserves as much”.

The Republican National Committee voted in 2022 to no longer participate in forums sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The Trump campaign has not indicated it would adhere to that but did have some conditions. The campaign managers said the commission selected a “demonstrably anti-Trump moderator” in then-Fox News host Chris Wallace in 2020 and wants assurances the commission debates are fair and impartial.

The Trump campaign also wants the timetable moved up, saying that many Americans will have already voted by September 16, October 1 and October 9, the dates of the three debates set by the commission.

The Biden campaign declined to comment on the news organisations’ letter, pointing to the president’s earlier statement. There was no immediate response from the Trump campaign.

By Press Association

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