News Outlets Urge Trump and Biden to Commit to Presidential Debates

A group of major news organizations — including The Associated Press and the five big broadcast and cable networks — issued an unusual joint statement on Sunday urging President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump to commit to participating in televised debates before Election Day.

“General election debates have a rich tradition in our American democracy,” the group wrote. “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.”

Media organizations rarely weigh in so explicitly on the campaign plans of presidential candidates. The statement underscores just how much uncertainty surrounds whether this year’s debates will occur.

Mr. Biden has declined to commit to the three debates scheduled for September and October. His allies have expressed concerns about the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan group that has organized the events since 1988, and its ability to enforce its rules when Mr. Trump participates.

Mr. Trump has promised to debate and regularly taunts Mr. Biden for not following suit. But in 2020, Mr. Trump forced the cancellation of the second scheduled debate by pulling out at the last minute. Last year, Mr. Trump refused to debate his Republican primary opponents, and he has accused the debate commission of pro-Biden bias.

If no debate is held in 2024, it would break a streak that dates back to the Jimmy Carter-Gerald R. Ford election of 1976. Presidential debates remain America’s largest mass gathering outside of sports: In 2020, an average of 68 million people tuned in for the two Biden-Trump debates, significantly more than watched the party nominating conventions.

The news outlets’ plans to issue a joint statement were reported by The New York Times last week.

In addition to ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and Fox News, the following news organizations also endorsed the statement: The Associated Press, C-SPAN, NewsNation, NPR, PBS NewsHour, USA Today and Noticias Univision, the news division of the Spanish-language network.

(A spokesman for Newsmax volunteered to The Times last week that the right-leaning news channel was in agreement with the statement, although it is not an official signatory.)

The statement noted that dates and eligibility requirements for this year’s matchups were previously announced by the debate commission.

“Though it is too early for invitations to be extended to any candidates, it’s 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 statement reads.

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