The campaign for United States President Donald Trump has objected to the chosen topics for Thursday’s election debate in Nashville, Tennessee, declaring the final face-off between the candidates was meant to be the “foreign policy debate” and accusing organisers of pro-Biden bias.
Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien, in a Monday letter to the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates, said that debate “was always billed as the ‘Foreign Policy Debate'” as was “agreed to by both the Trump campaign and Biden campaign many months ago”.
On Friday, the debate moderator, NBC News’ Kristen Welker, announced the debate topics would be fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership. It was unclear if there had ever been a formal agreement on what the topics would be, although, in past elections, foreign policy has factored prominently in final presidential debates.
In the letter to the debate organisers, Stepien decried “the commission’s pro-Biden antics” and said the foreign policy omission stood to benefit the Democratic challenger.
“We understand that Joe Biden is desperate to avoid conversations about his own foreign policy record, especially since President Trump has secured historic peace agreements among Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain,” he wrote, alleging the commission had intentionally sought to benefit Biden in the first debate and in the cancelled second one.
The campaign has also slammed the commission’s decision, announced on Monday, to mute the candidates during portions of the debate when the other candidate is speaking – a response to the chaotic first debate in Cleveland, Ohio that often devolved into a shouting match.
A second debate scheduled for October 15 was cancelled after Trump refused to agree to a digital format following his COVID-19 diagnosis. The candidates instead were featured in dueling prime-time town hall events on separate US TV networks.
Trump, for his part, has continued to attack the framework of the debate, while accusing moderator Welker of being a “radical left Democrat” during a rally in Arizona on Monday.
“These people are not good people,” he said of the debate commission on Tuesday, in an interview on Fox News, adding there was “nothing fair” about the upcoming event.
Despite the harsh words, Trump and his campaign have said he will participate in the debate, hoping the final face-to-face meeting between the candidates will give the president a bump amid lagging polls going into Election Day on November 3.