Fox News, NBC and 10 Other Major Media Outlets Demand Trump-Biden Presidential Debates

The collective insist that “there is simply no substitute for the candidates debating with each other”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump participate in their second 2020 presidential campaign debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., October 22, 2020. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/Pool

In a joint statement issued Sunday, a dozen major media outlets demanded that President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump to agree to debate one another. The statement follows apparent reluctance from each side about debates, with Trump dodging any primary season debates while also calling on Biden for early general election debates.

The joint statement includes the major cable news, network news and several other large mainstream news outlets. That includes cable news outfits CNN, Fox News and MSNBC parent NBCUniversal News Group.

The outlets “urge the presumptive presidential nominees to publicly commit to participating in general election debates before November’s election.”

They note the history of presidential debates, pointing to the fact that they’ve been a regular part of our electoral cycles for 50 years. They’ve also occasionally been a key factor longer than that, including John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon’s infamous televised 1960 debate where radio listeners were TV viewers were more likely than radio listeners to believe Kennedy won. But there were no more presidential debates until 1976.

The outlets also cite the fact that the Commission on Presidential Debates has hosted presidential debates since 1988. Though it is still too early for presidential candidates to be officially invited to debate ahead of this year’s election, with neither officially their party’s nominee until this summer’s party conventions, “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.”

The joint statement concludes that the “stakes of this election are exceptionally high” and insists that debate is the only way for the American public to understand each candidate’s perspective and beliefs. As they put it, “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.”

The statement is signed by ABC News, The Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, C-SPAN, Fox News Media, NBCUniversal News Group, NewsNation, Noticias Univision (Univision Network News), NPR, PBS NewsHour and USA Today.

GOP candidate Trump skipped all four Republican primary debates in 2023 and 2024, but has said he will debate Biden “anytime, anywhere, any place” ahead of the November election. They debated in 2020, but the second of three debates was canceled after Trump contracted COVID-19 before vaccines were available.

Biden has expressed less enthusiasm at the idea of debating Trump this year and told reporters in March that a debate against Trump “depends on his behavior.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates has debates scheduled for Sept. 16, Oct. 1 and Oct. 9.

The letter is the final version of a draft obtained by the New York Times on Tuesday.

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