NYT Columnist Urges Biden to Change Terms of Debates with Trump

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Monday, March 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/AP Photo

A prominent columnist for the New York Times is urging Joe Biden’s campaign to rethink the terms agreed upon for the three debates between their candidate and President Donald Trump.

“I worry about Joe Biden debating Donald Trump,” Thomas Friedman, a political and foreign affairs columnist at the Times wrote on Tuesday. “He should do it only under two conditions. Otherwise, he’s giving Trump unfair advantages.”

Friedman, who has won the Pulitzer Prize three times for his work, proceeded to argue that the former vice president should not appear at the debates unless Trump releases his tax returns and a “real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates” is included in the debates.

Ten “minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered,” he wrote. “That way no one in that massive television audience can go away easily misled.”

The columnist asserted that the two conditions would ensure both candidates were on even footing, especially as “Trump might very well lie and mislead for the entire debate, forcing Biden to have to spend a majority of his time correcting [him] before making his own points.”

“He should not go into such a high-stakes moment ceding any advantages to Trump,” Freidman wrote. “Trump is badly trailing in the polls, and he needs these debates much more than Biden does to win over undecided voters.”

The column comes as Biden has agreed to take part in only the customary three debates between the Republican and Democrat presidential candidates. Trump, who last year floated the idea of skipping the debates in general, had made an aggressive push for more than three debates. The president also sought to decrease the role of moderators in the process, allowing the candidates a less structured environment in which to exchange views and discuss topics important to the nation.

Some on the left, however, are worried that even three debates could be potentially damaging to Biden’s White House hopes. In particular, many fear that if the former vice president’s penchant for gaffes reemerges during the televised encounters, it could potentially hurt the wide lead his campaign has established in most polls.

Biden, himself, has not addressed that likelihood, instead remaining optimistic. Last week after a speech in Delaware, Biden told reporters that he “can hardly wait” for the opportunity to face Trump on the debate stage.


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