President Biden says he's 'happy to debate' Trump in surprise interview with Howard Stern

Up until now, Biden’s reelection campaign had declined to commit to participating in debates ahead of the November general election.
Joe Biden and Howard Stern
Posted at 12:44 PM, Apr 26, 2024

President Joe Biden said Friday that he is willing to debate his presumptive Republican opponent, Donald Trump, later this fall – his most definitive comment yet on the issue.

The comment came during an interview with the Sirius XM radio host Howard Stern, who asked President Biden whether he would participate in debates against Trump.

“I am, somewhere. I don’t know when,” he said. “But I’m happy to debate him.”

So far, President Biden’s reelection campaign had declined to commit to participating in the debates, a hallmark of every general election presidential campaign since 1976.

The president himself had also been vague, saying in March that whether he debated Trump “depends on his behavior.”

Combination photo shows former President Donald Trump, left, and President Joe Biden.

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Chris LaCivita, Trump campaign senior adviser, quickly responded to President Biden’s remarks on the social media site X: “OK let’s set it up!” The Trump campaign had said the former president is “willing to debate anytime, any place and anywhere,” although Trump did not participate in any of the Republican primary debates this cycle.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has already announced the dates and locations for the three general election debates between the presidential candidates: Sept. 16 in San Marcos, Texas; Oct. 1 in Petersburg, Virginia; and Oct. 9 in Salt Lake City. The lone vice presidential debate is slated for Sept. 25 in Easton, Pennsylvania.

President Biden engages in relatively fewer press interviews than his predecessors, and his aides tend to choose outlets and media avenues outside the traditional press corps that covers the president in Washington. His interview with Stern on Friday, which ran well over an hour, took on a conversational and introspective tone and spanned topics that included President Biden’s upbringing, family, and his favorite president (Thomas Jefferson, President Biden said).

Less the “shock jock” of old, Stern still commands a loyal audience. And he’s become known for his conversational interviewing skills. He can turn talks with celebrities into revealing discussions, often by asking things others might be afraid to, but not in confrontational ways.