US news organizations urge Biden and Trump to agree to TV election debates

<span>In 2020, Biden and Trump debated twice.</span><span>Photograph: Morry Gash/AP</span>
In 2020, Biden and Trump debated twice.Photograph: Morry Gash/AP

Twelve US news organizations are urging Joe Biden and Donald Trump to agree to TV debates ahead of the November presidential vote, a typical feature of an election year and one that can sometimes play a crucial role.

“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 organizations including ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, PBS, NBC, NPR and the Associated Press said in a statement.

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“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,” they added.

But the two major candidates have so far resisted debating rival candidates from their own parties, with Trump refusing to participate against the former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and others, and Biden resisting calls to set foot on a TV stage with rival Democratic candidates, who have since abandoned their electoral efforts to challenge him in the party.

The news organizations said it was not too early for each campaign to say publicly that it will participate in the three presidential and one vice-presidential TV showdowns set by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

In 2020, Biden and Trump debated twice, with a third debate canceled after then-president Trump tested positive for Covid-19.

Last week, the Trump campaign called for presidential debates to be held earlier and more frequently so voters “have a full chance” to see the candidates in action. Trump campaign managers have argued that by the time of the first scheduled debate, on 16 September, more than 1 million Americans will likely have already voted, with more than 8.7 million voting by the third debate, penciled in for 9 October.

Trump has said he is willing to go head-to-head with Biden “anytime, anyplace and anywhere”, starting “now”. But Biden has been uncommitted to any debate so far, saying last month: “it depends on [Trump’s] behavior.”