US news organisations urge Biden, Trump to debate

Steve GormanReuters
Donald Trump and Joe Biden will face off again in November, but will they debate first? (EPA PHOTO)
Camera IconDonald Trump and Joe Biden will face off again in November, but will they debate first? (EPA PHOTO) Credit: EPA

A dozen leading US news organisations have collectively urged President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump to publicly commit to debating each other during the run-up to the November election.

"Debates have a rich tradition in our American democracy, having played a vital role in every presidential election of the past 50 years, dating to 1976," the 12 news outlets said in a joint statement on Sunday.

The statement suggested debates for the current race be sponsored, as they have every election cycle since 1988, by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

"Though it is too early for invitations to be extended to any candidates, it is not too early for candidates who expect to meet the eligibility criteria to publicly state their support for - and their intention to participate in - the commission's debates planned for this fall."

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Network television outlets accounted for nine of the letter's signatories - ABC News, CBS News and NBCUniversal News Group (encompassing NBC News and MSNBC), as well as Fox, CNN, C-SPAN, the PBS NewsHour, Nextstar's NewsNation and Spanish-language Univision.

Rounding out the group were The Associated Press wire service, National Public Radio and Gannett's national newspaper USA Today.

Trump, who refused to debate his rivals before winning the Republican primary race last month, has in recent weeks been challenging Biden to engage in a one-on-one match-up with him, offering to debate the incumbent Democrat "anytime, anywhere, anyplace".

Last Thursday, Trump's top two campaign advisers sent a letter to the debates commission calling for an accelerated debates timetable, holding more than the usual three events and starting them earlier in the campaign cycle than usual.

Biden has not committed to debate Trump but has not ruled it out either, saying it would depend on the former president's behaviour.

Biden's camp has been concerned that once on stage Trump will not abide by rules set by the commission, and some Biden advisers say they would prefer not to elevate Trump by putting him on the same stage with the Democratic incumbent.

Biden has a lead among registered voters of 41 to 37 per cent over Trump, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found on Wednesday.

Asked during a trip to Las Vegas in early February about Trump calling for Biden to debate him, Biden said, "If I were him, I would want to debate me too. He's got nothing to do."

Biden and Trump faced each other in two televised presidential election debates during the 2020 campaign.

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