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President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden

Photo by Andrea Widburg

Surrogates for Donald Trump's campaign have claimed repeatedly in recent days that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is planning to pull out of debates due to media pressure and Democratic fears that the former vice president is in cognitive decline.

But there is no truth to that argument.


Back in June, Biden agreed to debate Trump three times — the traditional number of debates that have taken place for decades.

However that has not stopped nearly a half dozen Trump aides and campaign surrogates from making the argument, including Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.; Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel; Trump campaign aide Jason Miller; Trump campaign spokesperson Erin Perrine; and Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R).

Both Trump Jr. and McDaniel accused Biden's supporters of not wanting Biden to debate out of fear of his cognitive decline — a baseless accusation about Biden's mental health. That argument has not helped Trump against Biden, as Biden still carries a large lead over Trump both in national polls and in critical swing states Trump needs to win to secure his reelection.

In an appearance Tuesday on Fox Business, McDaniel claimed Biden "doesn't want to debate," adding that Biden's supporters are "afraid to put him on a debate stage."

Trump Jr. falsely said in a Tuesday interview on an Iowa talk radio station that "there's an active push to get Joe Biden not to debate my father because, honestly, no one can look at Joe Biden and say this guy's all there."

Trump himself has accused Biden of supposedly refusing to debate him, claiming back in April, "We have a sleepy guy in a basement of a house that the press is giving a free pass to who doesn't want to do debates because of COVID."

Biden has mostly stayed away from in-person campaign events since the start of the pandemic, adhering to health experts' social distancing guidance to limit spread of the coronavirus and holding livestream events from his home instead.

The accusation that Biden won't debate Trump appears to have stemmed from social media posts by a handful of pundits.

"My opinion that no one asked for: Biden shouldn't feel obligated to throw Trump a lifeline by granting him any debates at all," Zac Petkanas, a Democratic strategist, tweeted on July 27. "This is not a normal presidential election and Trump is not a legitimate candidate."

However, neither Biden nor his aides have ever said the Democrat wouldn't take to the debate stage.

"Donald Trump and his allies at Fox News have decided an imaginary controversy about debates will be their latest attempt to distract Americans from the president's disastrous response to the coronavirus, which has cost 150,000 Americans their lives and left millions jobless," Biden spokesperson TJ Ducklo said in a statement to CNN Tuesday.

And it's not Biden who has left the door open to skipping debates, but Trump, whose aides accused the Commission on Presidential Debates back in January of being "biased."

"The problem is that the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates is stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers. 3 years ago they were forced to publicly apologize for modulating my microphone in the first debate against Crooked Hillary," Trump tweeted last December. (The CPD never modulated Trump's microphone, as Trump suggested.)

Trump also has a history of skipping debates.

In the 2016 GOP presidential primary, Trump skipped multiple debates, including one in January 2016, over his disdain for the planned moderator, now-former Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

In March of 2016, he also skipped a primary debate simply because he was tired of doing them.

"I think we've had enough debates," Trump said at the time.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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