Former U.S. President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, stands next to a podium challenging President Joe Biden to a debate at a rally in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania on April 13, 2024.

(Photo: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)

Major Media Outlets Urge Biden, Trump to Commit to 2024 Debates

"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."

After Tuesday previews by CNN and The New York Times, a dozen major U.S. news outlets on Sunday called on Democratic President Joe Biden, who is seeking reelection, and former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, to agree now to debate each other.

Although the presidential primary season is ongoing, the two historically unpopular candidates have already secured enough delegates to receive their parties' nominations at the conventions this summer. The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) last year announced the date, time, and location of three debates scheduled for September and October.

"With the contours of the 2024 general election now coming into clear focus, we—the undersigned national news organizations—urge the presumptive presidential nominees to publicly commit to participating in general election debates before November's election," says the joint letter signed by ABC News, The Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, C-SPAN, Fox News, NewsNation, NBC News, Noticias Univision, NPR, PBS NewsHour, and USA Today.

"General election debates have a rich tradition in our American democracy, having played a vital role in every presidential election of the past 50 years."

"General 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," they wrote. "In each of those elections, tens of millions have tuned in to watch the candidates debating side by side, in a competition of ideas for the votes of American citizens."

The news organizations noted that "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."

"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 letter concludes. "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."

In a Thursday letter to CPD leaders acknowledging the media organizations' call, Trump's campaign wrote that "the commission must move up the timetable of its proposed 2024 debates to ensure more Americans have a full chance to see the candidates before they start voting, and we would argue for adding more debates in addition to those on the currently proposed schedule."

"We have already indicated President Trump is willing to debate anytime, anyplace, anywhere—and the time to start these debates is now," the campaign letter adds. This, despite the Republican National Committee's 2022 withdrawal from the CPD.

At a Saturday rally in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, Trump stood next to a podium with a sign that said "anytime, anywhere, anyplace" and renewed his call for Biden to debate him. The twice-impeached former president—who faces four ongoing criminal cases—has a track record of defying debate rules.

As ABC Newsdetailed Sunday:

Biden has mostly avoided commenting publicly on engaging in debate with Trump. Asked following his State of the Union address in March if he would commit to one, Biden remarked to ABC News: "It depends on his behavior."

"Well, if I were him, I'd want to debate me too," Biden said earlier in March, after Trump challenged him to debate "anytime, anywhere, anyplace."

"He's got nothing else to do," Biden added.

The Times reported earlier this week that "the Biden campaign has not ruled out agreeing to the debates, according to a person with direct knowledge of the discussions, who requested anonymity to share details intended to be private. But the campaign does not see an advantage to publicly committing to participate this early in the year, the person said."

Trump declined to participate in the Republican primary debates this cycle and Democrats didn't hold any, despite protests from longshot candidates. In 2020, there were only two presidential debates; a third was canceled after Trump tested positive for Covid-19 and refused to shift to a remote format.

In February, Ralph Nader, who has run for president as an Independent, suggested holding presidential debates in major cities and swing states, writing in a Common Dreams opinion piece that "unlike the one-shoe-fits-all model of the CPD, this proposal would provide a greater variety of debate formats and reflect national issues by the moderators but also regional issues."

"The proverbial named 'empty seat' for no-show candidates would be visible to millions of TV viewers if an invited candidate declined to participate," he argued. "All that is needed to make these debates happen is for the mayor and city council in each city to establish a representative host committee to organize the details of when, where, and how these debates are to be planned."

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