Trump claims Biden too scared to debate him – hours after former vice president challenges him to one

Presumptive Democratic nominee says he'd challenge the incumbent president to a debate 'anytime, anywhere'

Chris Riotta
New York
Friday 24 April 2020 17:02 BST
Donald Trump calls mail voting "horrible" and "corrupt"

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Donald Trump claimed Joe Biden “doesn’t want to debate” him because of the coronavirus pandemic during a press conference on Thursday — just hours after the former vice president suggested he's eager for the shot.

The president referred to the presumptive Democratic nominee as a “sleepy guy in the basement of a house” while seemingly mocking his at-home interviews conducted amid lockdown orders in states across the country.

“I watched a couple of interviews and I say, ‘Oh, I look forward to this,’ but they’re keeping him sheltered because of coronavirus,” Mr Trump continued. “He’s not moving around. He’s not moving too much.”

Mr Trump’s comments came shortly after Mr Biden held a virtual town hall, in which he told supporters he was looking forward to debating the Republican incumbent.

“Are you kidding?” the former vice president said about debating Mr Trump, adding that he would take that opportunity whether it were held on “Zoom or Skype, or hangout or in person, anytime, anywhere.”

Mr Trump and his allies in Washington have revived their attacks against Mr Biden in recent weeks, following Bernie Sanders announcing the suspension of his Democratic presidential campaign — the last formidable opponent against the former vice president in a once historically-crowded and diverse election cycle.

The president’s re-election campaign has meanwhile referred to Mr Biden, 78, as a “rotting corpse”. Those statements reflect a pattern for Mr Trump, also a septuagenarian, who regularly attacks Mr Biden’s health and mental fitness.

Kayleigh McEnany, who now serves as the White House press secretary, lambasted Mr Biden for cancelling a rally in Florida last month due to the novel virus, also claiming he was forgoing the event because his staff was allegedly trying to prevent him from being public.

“They're saying they're cancelling these rallies because of the coronavirus. No, they're desperate to get Joe Biden off the campaign trail,” she said at the time. “So they're trying to get him off. What better way to do that by saying, 'We're going to sidestep these rallies and public appearances. We don't want an audience to watch the debate with Joe because we know Joe is going to fall apart, an audience makes that harder as they laugh and snicker and whatnot.’”

Mr Trump’s press briefings on the pandemic have raised controversy in recent days as the president continued attacking his apparent enemies and providing misleading information about Covid-19 treatments.

On Thursday, Mr Trump suggested “something like” a disinfectant injected into the body could help battle the outbreak — a claim that was roundly condemned by health experts.

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