Never Saw 'Em Coming: CNN, ABC Debate Deals Were A Surprise

Last week’s presidential debate announcements from CNN and ABC came as a surprise.

Up until last Wednesday (May 15), the question of whether or not Joe Biden and Donald Trump would ever go head-to-head on a debate stage before Election Day seemed to revolve almost solely around the reluctance of the Biden campaign to put him in a debate setting.

At least that was the conventional wisdom, according to the usual news media.

Now that the Biden campaign has said yes to two of them, the news media’s “wisdom” turns out to be not so wise.

The first one is only a few weeks away -- Thursday, June 27, on CNN and other WBD platforms (CNN Max, and others), to be held at CNN’s Atlanta studios. Moderators will be Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.  



As luck would have it, the Biden and Trump campaigns said yes to the June 27 showdown on the very morning of Warner Bros. Discovery’s Upfront in New York last Wednesday. Imagine that! The very morning! 

“I’d like to finish appropriately enough with a piece of breaking news,” CNN Chairman and CEO Mark Thompson said from the Upfront stage as the CNN portion of the presentation was coming to an end.

“Earlier this morning, I wrote to President Biden and former President Donald Trump inviting both of them to take part in a presidential debate to be broadcast and streamed on CNN from Atlanta on the 27 of June,” said Thompson.

“And while this Upfront has been taking place, we’ve received word from both candidates that they’ve accepted the invitation! So, we’re set for the first presidential election debate of 2024,” he said.

The WBD Upfront began a little after 10 a.m. Eastern last Wednesday. Thompson must have written these messages to the candidates before dawn. 

They said yes so fast (according to him) that it makes the TV Blog wonder whether he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. 

However this agreement was reached, this debate will give all of us something fun to do on the evening of June 27.

The second debate announced last week is scheduled for September 10 on ABC and Hulu. 

That’s a gap of more than three months between each of these debates, although there could be more of them, either this summer or on dates closer to the election on November 5.

ABC News made its debate announcement in a press release that landed in the TV Blog’s inbox on Wednesday afternoon at 1:30, a few hours after CNN’s announcement.

The announcement may have been hurried, since no details about the debate other than its date were announced. 

Details such as moderators, format and location “will be provided at a later date,” the release said.

The press release provided no details about the nature of ABC’s deal with the two campaigns, especially the burning question of the speed with which it came together. Was it as lightning-fast as CNN’s? That question awaits an answer.

For those with calendars to mark, the other big events of the summer TV campaign season are the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

The Republicans go first. Their convention runs from Monday, July 15, through Thursday, July 18, in Milwaukee. 

The Democrats’ convention will start Monday, August 19, and conclude on Thursday, August 22, in Chicago. 

Meanwhile, the possibility of another debate arose last Thursday when Kamala Harris accepted an invitation reportedly proffered by CBS News to debate Trump’s vice-presidential pick, whoever that turns out to be.

“Harris’ team told the network she would debate in-studio on Tuesday, July 23, or Tuesday, August 13, and encouraged the Trump campaign to agree to one of the dates for his eventual vice-presidential pick,” AP reported.

Ever the showman, Trump has said he does not plan to name a running mate until the GOP convention. 

But before all that happens, all eyes will be on the June 27 clash of active seniors on CNN -- Trump, 77, and Biden, 81.

Republicans -- at least those backing Trump -- will be scrutinizing President Biden’s every move to see if he creaks, and listening closely to the quality of his speech to see if he still makes sense.

Democrats in Biden’s corner will have their eyes and ears on Trump, poised to fact-check his claims, and make note of any insults he will issue under his breath (but loud enough to hear).

All of this summer’s political telecasts promise to be historic, entertaining and, unfortunately, pathetic. 

Donald Trump photo courtesy of NBC News, “Meet the Press,” September 17, 2023.

Joe Biden photo courtesy of Showtime, “The Circus,” November 2, 2022.

1 comment about "Never Saw 'Em Coming: CNN, ABC Debate Deals Were A Surprise".
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  1. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, May 21, 2024 at 10:55 a.m.

    Pathetic is right. This is an end-around collaborative plan eschewing the non-profit Commission on Presidential Debates so the two primary parties can cut out RFKjr, who by the June date will most likely be on all 50 states ballots and is currently polling in the 15-18% range when the 18-21 demo is included (look at the polls that have him at 5-10% and see how skewed by "likely voters" they are; this is no ordinary "likely voters" election).

    Moreover, until 2024 the earliest any Presidential debate took place was third week of September, with subesquent debates running into late October. Now they're going to have one in JUNE? And the second, and final, on September 10th?

    This is not normal. It suggests Biden will not be the Democratic Party nominee. Mark these words, even if you're sick of me being right 93.93% of the time. "Love Under Will" and all that, LOL. 

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