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Biden Declines Events Proposed by Commission on Presidential Debates

 June 25, 2024

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced on Monday that four universities have been released from their contracts to host the 2024 candidate forums following President Joe Biden's decision to not participate in debates under the commission's sponsorship.

The Biden campaign has independently arranged debates with former President Donald Trump, bypassing the CPD altogether, as the New York Post reports.

The CPD, a nonpartisan organization, informed Texas State University, Lafayette College, Virginia State University, and the University of Utah that they no longer need to prepare for the debates scheduled for September and October. This decision came after the Biden campaign, in a letter dated May 15, 2024, from Campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon, indicated President Biden's unwillingness to debate under the CPD's sponsorship.

Universities Affected by CPD Decision

The affected universities had been preparing for these debates since their selection in November 2023.

CPD co-chairs Antonia Hernández and Frank Fahrenkopf expressed their regret in a joint statement, noting, "Given the letter dated May 15, 2024, from Jen O’Malley Dillon, campaign chair for the Biden-Harris Campaign, in which the Biden-Harris Campaign informed the Commission that President Biden will not agree to debate under the sponsorship of the Commission during the 2024 general election campaign, it is unfair to ask the four campuses to continue to prepare for their debates, as they have been doing since their November, 2023 selection."

Independent Biden-Trump Debates Arranged

In lieu of the CPD-sponsored debates, the Biden campaign has arranged two independent debates with former President Donald Trump.

The first debate will be hosted by CNN at its Atlanta studios on Thursday, and the second will air on ABC on Sept. 10, though the location has yet to be announced.

The CPD has a long history of organizing presidential and vice-presidential debates, having hosted 30 of its 33 debates on college or university campuses since 1987.

The organization's co-chairs lamented the lost opportunity for students, stating, "We are dismayed that students of the four campuses will not have the opportunity to participate in these historic voter education forums."

CPD's Role and Response

Despite this setback, the CPD remains prepared to sponsor debates for the 2024 election should circumstances change. The commission was established to provide a neutral forum focusing on the candidates and the issues important to the American people.

In their statement, Hernández and Fahrenkopf emphasized, "The reason for the CPD’s creation remains compelling: a neutral organization with no other role during the general election is well-positioned to offer formats that focus on the candidate and the issues that are most important to the American people."

Controversy and Criticism

The decision by the Biden campaign has not been without controversy. Frank Fahrenkopf, CPD co-chair, directly criticized White House advisor Anita Dunn, attributing the campaign's decision to her longstanding opposition to the commission.

"I know where all this is coming [from] — this is Anita Dunn," Fahrenkopf said. "This is her plan. I know. She’s fought — she was against the commission for years and years and years."

Conclusion

The CPD's announcement marks a significant shift in the landscape of the 2024 presidential election debates.

With the cancellation of the CPD-sponsored forums, universities like Texas State, Lafayette College, Virginia State, and the University of Utah are left with canceled plans despite months of preparation.

Meanwhile, the Biden campaign's independent debates with Trump, set to be broadcast by CNN and ABC, indicate a new direction for the presidential debate format. The CPD, though sidelined this election cycle, remains committed to its mission of providing a neutral platform for candidate discussions, ready to step in if the situation changes.

The bottom line is that the CPD announced the release of four universities from hosting 2024 candidate forums after President Biden declined to participate in CPD-sponsored debates, opting instead for independently arranged debates with former President Trump.

The decision ends months of preparation by the universities and reflects ongoing controversies within the Biden campaign regarding debate sponsorship.