US media organisations push Biden and Trump for TV debate pledge

Source: BBC

A dozen US news outlets have called on the presumptive US presidential nominees to commit to taking part in TV debates ahead of November’s election.

The statement did not name Joe Biden or Donald Trump, but said it was never too early for candidates to publicly declare they will take part.

The letter warned the stakes of this year’s poll were “exceptionally high.”

Mr Trump, who skipped all four Republican primary debates, has said he is keen to debate President Biden.

The statement – published on Sunday – was signed by the BBC’s US partner, CBS News, as well as ABC, AP CNN, C-SPAN, Fox News, NBCUniversal News Group, NewsNation, NPR, PBS NewsHour, Univision and USA Today.

It said that televised debates have “a rich tradition” in US democracy, dating back to 1976, and that tens of millions of people tune in to watch.

“If there is one thing Americans can agree on during this polarized time, it is that the stakes of this election are exceptionally high,” the statement said, adding that there was “simply no substitute for the candidates debating with each other, and before the American people, their visions for the future of our nation.”

Mr Biden and Mr Trump have won enough delegates to secure their nominations at party conventions. There were no Democratic debates in this presidential election cycle, while Mr Trump secured his nomination despite skipping all the Republican presidential debates.

Mr Trump, 77, has repeatedly claimed Mr Biden, 81, is too old and forgetful to debate him. Mr Biden has made similar allegations about Mr Trump. 

Last month, Mr Trump said he would take part in a TV forum with the Democratic president “anytime, anywhere, anyplace”.

But the White House has expressed reluctance to commit to a contest amid concerns that the Commission on Presidential Debates – which administers the debates – would be unable to guarantee a “fair” bout. 

According to an Associated Press report last month, when asked by reporters if he would commit to a debate with Mr Trump, Mr Biden said: “It depends on his behaviour.”

The televised debates are set to take place in September and October.

But in a latter on Thursday, Mr Tump’s campaign called for “much earlier” and “more” presidential debates than initially proposed. 

“Voting is beginning earlier and earlier, and as we saw in 2020, tens of millions of Americans had already voted by the time of the first debate,” campaign advisers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita said in the letter. 

In 2020, Mr Biden and Mr Trump took part in two ill-tempered presidential debates. 

Mr Trump’s repeated interruptions – which at one point prompted Mr Biden to exclaim “will you shut up, man” – saw NPR call the bout “maybe the worst presidential debate in American history”.

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