House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden shouldn’t debate President Donald Trump, claiming that his Republican rival in the 2020 election would “belittle” what the presidential debates should be about.
“I don’t think that there should be any debates. I do not think that the President of the United States has comported himself in a way that has any association with truth, evidence, data, and facts,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, said during a news conference on Capitol Hill.
She said she “wouldn’t legitimize a conversation” with Trump, “nor a debate in terms of the presidency of the United States.”
Pelosi’s comments come as the Biden campaign has been fighting accusations from the Trump campaign and Republicans that the former vice president does not want to debate Trump. Following Pelosi’s comments, Biden and his campaign made clear that he still intends to debate Trump.
The House speaker on Thursday said Trump during the debates will “probably act in a way that is beneath the dignity of the presidency. He does that every day.”
“I think he will also belittle what the debates are supposed to be about,” Pelosi said. “And they’re not supposed to be about skullduggery on the part of somebody who has no respect for the office he holds, much less the democratic process.”
Pelosi criticized Trump’s 2016 debate performance against Hillary Clinton as “disgraceful,” accusing him of “stalking her” on stage by looming behind her during their second face-off.
She floated the idea of instead having the two candidates take their own stage and answer questions separately.
Asked later Thursday on MSNBC if he would consider not debating Trump, Biden replied, “No. As long as the Commission (on Presidential Debates) continues down the straight and narrow as they have, I’m going to debate him.”
“I know for certain, I’m gonna be a fact-checker on the floor while I’m debating him,” he added.
Responding to Pelosi’s comments, Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said the campaign certainly agrees with the speaker’s views of Trump’s behavior.
“But just as she has powerfully confronted that behavior in the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room, Joe Biden looks forward to doing the same on the debate stage,” Bates said in a statement Thursday.
Biden previously agreed to participate in the three announced fall debates with Trump, while the President and his campaign have pushed for a fourth general election presidential debate.
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.
CNN’s Sarah Mucha contributed to this report.