Speaker Nancy Pelosi has publicly urged Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden not to debate Donald Trump this fall, saying the president's behaviour on-stage would simply be “an exercise in skullduggery.”
"Don't tell anyone I told you this—" Ms Pelosi said before a room of reporters and TV cameras during an on-the-record news conference, "[but] I don't think there should be any debates."
Ms Pelosi criticised the president for telling, by The Washington Post's latest count, tens of thousands of false or misleading statements during his three and a half year presidency.
"I do not think that the President of the United States has comported himself in a way that ... has any association with truth, evidence, data and facts. I wouldn't legitimize a conversation with him," the speaker said.
She acknowledged that the Biden campaign thinks differently, and that her position is not the official Democratic one.
Ms Pelosi, who has not spoken personally with Mr Trump in more than 10 months — during which time her chamber has impeached him, negotiated trillions of dollars in aid to fight the coronavirus pandemic, and held several high-profile oversight hearings on his administrative actions — pointed to the president's debate performances against Hillary Clinton in 2016 as evidence of his unworthy behaviour.
“What he did in 2016 was disgraceful, stalking Hillary Clinton like that. ... He will probably act in a way that is beneath the dignity of the presidency. He does that every day," Ms Pelosi said.
While Ms Pelosi has cautioned against giving Mr Trump yet another prime-time opportunity to deliver misleading statements to the nation at the three scheduled presidential debates this fall, Mr Biden sees it differently.
Reminded last week by ABC News' David Muir of reports that Mr Trump is already preparing for the debate stage, Mr Biden's face lit up.
"So am I. I can hardly wait," he said.
Controversial senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller has offered surprisingly complimentary reviews of Mr Biden's past debate performances, admitting he is a formidable foe.
The former vice president is “actually a very good debater” who “doesn’t have as many gaffes as he does in his everyday interviews," Mr Miller said, according to the Post.
The first presidential debate will be held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, on 29 September. Two more are scheduled for Miami, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn., on 15 and 22 October, respectively.