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Major news organizations, including The Associated Press and major broadcast networks, issued a joint statement urging both President Biden and former President Donald Trump to commit to participating in televised debates before the upcoming election. The group emphasized the importance of debates in American democracy and highlighted that there is no substitute for candidates debating their visions for the nation before the American people. This statement is unusual as media organizations rarely weigh in on the campaign plans of presidential candidates, underscoring the uncertainty surrounding this year’s debates.

President Biden has not yet committed to the three debates scheduled for September and October, with concerns raised by his allies about the Commission on Presidential Debates and its enforcement of rules when Trump participates. In contrast, Trump has promised to debate and has criticized Biden for not following suit. However, Trump’s actions in 2020, including pulling out of a scheduled debate at the last minute, raise doubts about the certainty of these debates. Despite disagreements and accusations of bias, the tradition of presidential debates dates back to the election of Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in 1976, making it a crucial aspect of American democratic practice.

Presidential debates continue to attract a substantial audience and are considered America’s largest mass gathering outside of sports. In 2020, an average of 68 million viewers tuned in for the Biden-Trump debates, surpassing the viewership of party nominating conventions. The news outlets’ decision to issue a joint statement reflects their commitment to ensuring that the debates take place this year. The statement was endorsed by a range of news organizations, including ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, Fox News, The Associated Press, C-SPAN, NewsNation, NPR, PBS NewsHour, USA Today, and Noticias Univision, indicating broad support for the debate process.

The debate commission has already announced dates and eligibility requirements for this year’s matchups, although no invitations have been extended yet. The joint statement called on all candidates who expect to meet the eligibility criteria to publicly express their support for and intention to participate in the commission’s debates planned for this fall. Ensuring that both presidential candidates commit to the debates will be crucial in upholding the tradition and importance of this democratic practice in the lead-up to the election. The news organizations’ collective effort aims to encourage transparency and accountability in the debate process.

In a time of heightened political polarization and uncertainty, the call for televised debates serves as a forum for candidates to present their visions and policies to the American public. The tradition of presidential debates has played a vital role in informing voters and shaping public opinion. By urging Biden and Trump to commit to participating in debates, the news organizations are emphasizing the importance of transparency, accountability, and open dialogue in the electoral process. The upcoming debates will serve as a critical platform for candidates to engage with voters, address key issues, and demonstrate their leadership capabilities, ultimately influencing voter decisions in the upcoming election.

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