President Biden ditches nonpartisan organization’s debates, including one at Texas State University

San Marcos campus was supposed to be the site of the first presidential debate

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In this combination photo, President Joe Biden speaks May 2, 2024, in Wilmington, N.C., left, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, May 1, 2024, in Waukesha, Wis. President Joe Biden says he wont participate in the campaign debates sponsored by a nonpartisan commission, instead challenging Republican Donald Trump to a pair of debates. Biden said Wednesday that Trump lost two debates to him in 2020 and since then, he hasnt shown up for a debate. Biden proposes debating Trump twice. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Wednesday said he will not participate in fall presidential debates sponsored by a nonpartisan commission, which included one planned for Texas State University in San Marcos.

Biden instead proposed two debates with former President Donald Trump to be held earlier in the year, ditching the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has organized them for more than three decades.

Biden’s campaign proposed that the first debate between the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees be held in late June and the second in September before early voting begins.

CNN later announced it will hold a debate in its Atlanta studios on June 27.

In November 2023, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced dates for three debates: Texas State on Sept. 16, Virginia State University on Oct. 1, and The University of Utah on Oct. 9.

Texas State was set to be the first university in Texas to host a presidential debate.

The university sent the following statement to KSAT:

We are aware of the latest developments surrounding the presidential debates. We are working closely with the Commission on Presidential Debates as we assess the situation.

>> ‘I hope Bobcats show out’: Texas State students excited to host first presidential debate

Biden campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon on Wednesday sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates to say that Biden would not participate in its announced debates, choosing instead to participate in debates hosted by news organizations. The Biden campaign objected to the fall dates selected by the commission — which come after some Americans begin to vote — repeating a complaint also raised by the Trump campaign.

Biden’s campaign has long held a grudge against the nonpartisan commission for failing to evenly apply its rules during the 2020 Biden-Trump matchups — most notably when it didn’t enforce its COVID-19 testing rules on Trump and his entourage — and Biden’s team has held talks with television networks and some Republicans about ways to circumvent the commission’s grip on presidential debates.

Trump responded to the letter in an interview with Fox News digital, calling the proposed dates “fully acceptable to me” and joked about providing his own transportation.

Biden, in a post on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, sought to needle his rival, saying, “Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020, since then, he hasn’t shown up for a debate. Now he’s acting like he wants to debate me again. Well, make my day, pal.”

The Democrat suggested that the two candidates could pick some dates, taking a dig at Trump’s ongoing New York hush money trial by noting that the Republican is “free on Wednesdays,” the usual day off in the trial.

The president first indicated he would be willing to debate Trump during an interview with radio host Howard Stern last month, telling him that “I am, somewhere. I don’t know when. But I’m happy to debate him.”

Biden indicated again last week that he was preparing to debate, telling reporters as he was leaving a White House event: “Set it up.”

Trump has repeatedly dared Biden to debate him, keeping a second podium open at rallies and claiming that his rival would not be up for the task.

Trump, too, has taken issue with the debate commission, but he and his team have maintained that they don’t care who hosts the debates as long as they happen.

The Trump campaign issued a statement on May 1 that objected to the scheduled debates by the Commission on Presidential Debates, saying that the schedule “begins AFTER early voting” and that “this is unacceptable” because voters deserve to hear from the candidates before ballots are cast.

Trump said at a Pennsylvania rally before his hush money trial began that the debates were needed.

“We have to debate because our country is going in the wrong direction so badly,” Trump said with the empty podium next to him. “We have to explain to the American people what the hell is going on.”

About the Authors

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

Daniela Ibarra joined the KSAT News team in July 2023. This isn’t her first time in the KSAT newsroom– the San Antonio native spent the summer of 2017 as an intern. Daniela is a proud Mean Green alum, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.

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