Biden and Trump will debate in June and September. But the terms have changed

By Mara Liasson
In this file photo from 2020, President Biden and then-President Donald Trump participate in the second and final presidential debate of that election. AP

President Biden and former President Donald Trump have agreed to a pair of presidential debates hosted by television networks, circumventing the schedule and traditional format proposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Biden and Trump will first debate on June 27. The event, hosted by CNN and announced by the network and the respective campaigns, will not feature an audience and will take place at CNN’s Atlanta studios.

The second debate, hosted by ABC News, will be Sept. 10. A location has not yet been announced.

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The dates were set Wednesday, hours after Biden’s campaign announced he would not participate in the process that the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates had proposed. The campaign laid out their own terms instead.

Trump responded to Biden’s call in a post on his Truth Social platform, saying he was “ready and willing” to debate Biden, and his campaign called for additional debates in July and August as well.

Both campaigns are shunning the Commission on Presidential Debates

The Republican National Committee had said in April 2022 that it would quit the Commission on Presidential Debates because of concerns about the timing of debates and over accusations of bias.

Biden campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon said the president was willing to take part in two debates hosted by broadcast organizations. But she said the commission — which has hosted debates since 1988 — is “out of step with changes in the structure of our elections and the interests of voters.”

The commission had announced back in November that there would be three debates in September and October. But O’Malley Dillon said its schedule begins too late, after tens of millions of people have cast their ballots in early voting, and said the commission failed to enforce debate rules in 2020.

Biden’s campaign also objects to the audiences — which it described as “raucous or disruptive partisans and donors, who consume valuable debate time with noisy spectacles of approval or jeering.”

“As was the case with the original televised debates in 1960, a television studio with just the candidates and moderators is a better, more cost-efficient way to proceed,” O’Malley Dillon said. Other terms include having microphones open only when it is the candidates turn to speak.

The vice presidential debate should be in late July, after the Republican National Convention, she said. A date for that debate has not yet been set.

Biden’s campaign ruled out other candidates in the debates

Biden’s campaign also nixed the idea of including third-party or independent candidates in the debates, saying they “should be one-on-one, allowing voters to compare the only two candidates with any statistical chance of prevailing in the Electoral College — and not squandering debate time on candidates with no prospect of becoming president.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an independent presidential candidate who has made it clear that he would like to appear on the debate stage, quickly blasted the campaigns’ decisions on social media. “Keeping viable candidates off the debate stage undermines democracy,” Kennedy said.