Biden and Trump Agree to Debate Next Month on CNN

President Joe Biden threw down the gauntlet on Wednesday, directly challenging former President Donald Trump – his expected 2024 rival — to not one, but two debates. Within hours, CNN announced via press release that it would be hosting the first debate in the presidential rematch on June 27 in the key battleground state of Georgia — where Trump remains under criminal indictment for attempting to interfere with the results of the 2020 election.

The debate will have no audience, and the moderators have yet to be announced. Participating candidates will be required to “appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency prior to the eligibility deadline” — meaning that potential third-party candidate RFK Jr. will likely be unable to take the stage.

Trump later announced he has accepted an ABC News debate on Sept. 10, and a Fox News debate on Oct. 2. He called Biden the “WORST PRESIDENT in the History of the United States and a true Threat to Democracy.”

In challenging Trump, the president took a jab at the former president’s scheduling conflicts given his ongoing criminal hush-money trial in New York, which does not convene on Wednesdays.

“Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020. Since then, he hasn’t shown up for a debate, now he’s acting like he wants to debate me again,” Biden said in a video released on social media. “Well make my day pal, I’ll even do it twice. So let’s pick the dates, Donald. I hear you’re free on Wednesdays.”

Trump was quick to accept the challenge, writing on Truth Social that “Crooked Joe Biden is the WORST debater I have ever faced — He can’t put two sentences together!”

“I am Ready and Willing to Debate Crooked Joe at the two proposed times in June and September,” he added. “I would strongly recommend more than two debates and, for excitement purposes, a very large venue, although Biden is supposedly afraid of crowds — That’s only because he doesn’t get them. Just tell me when, I’ll be there. ‘Let’s get ready to Rumble!!!’”

In a statement issued by the Biden-Harris campaign, the president clarified that the two debates he will be participating in will be independent events hosted by news organizations, not the debates typically organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The Biden campaign criticized the commission for scheduling debates “after the American people have a chance to cast their vote early, and doesn’t conclude until after tens of millions of Americans will have already voted.”

“The Commission’s failure, yet again, to schedule debates that will be meaningful to all voters – not just those who cast their ballots late in the fall or on Election Day – underscores the serious limitations of its outdated approach,” they added.

The president’s campaign also addressed their desire to host debates without audiences, a choice that will likely draw criticism from his opponents. “The debates should be conducted for the benefit of the American voters, watching on television and at home – not as entertainment for an in-person audience with raucous or disruptive partisans and donors, who consume valuable debate time with noisy spectacles of approval or jeering,” they wrote.

Biden’s challenge presents a much more optimistic stance regarding prospective debates between the de facto major party nominees than in past months. After weeks of hesitation, Biden told Howard Stern in April that he would be “happy” to debate Trump at some point in the election cycle.

Trump responded to Biden’s interview by proclaiming that he would be happy to debate “ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, ANYPLACE,” and complaining that while he was “stuck in one of the many Court cases that he instigated as ELECTION INTERFERENCE AGAINST A POLITICAL OPPONENT” he would be happy to hold a debate in Manhattan Criminal Court if that’s what it takes to make it happen.

Trump has bailed out of plenty of public promises in the past — including to testify in court proceedings — so we’ll see if he actually follows through with his pledge to debate Biden. It seems for now, at least, that the debates are on.

More from Rolling Stone

Best of Rolling Stone