US President Donald Trump and his political rival Joe Biden are fighting over plans for their last debate.
The Republican president’s campaign accused organisers of the showdown of helping the Democrat by leaving foreign policy off the topic list this week.
The Biden camp shot back that Mr Trump was trying to avoid questions about his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Biden has a commanding lead nationally in opinion polls with two weeks to go until the election. But he has a smaller lead in the handful of key US states that will ultimately decide the outcome.
Trump’s Camp –
On Monday, the president’s camp sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates calling for topics to be adjusted for the final primetime duel this Thursday.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in the letter that the campaigns had already agreed foreign policy would be the focus of the third debate.
The topics were announced by moderator and NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker last week: American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.
During a campaign rally on Monday afternoon in Prescott, Arizona, Mr Trump described Ms Welker as a “radical Democrat” and said she would be “no good”.
Mr Stepien accused Mr Biden of being “desperate to avoid conversations about his own foreign policy record” and the commission of trying to “insulate Biden from his own history”.
“The Commission’s pro-Biden antics have turned the entire debate season into a fiasco and it is little wonder why the public has lost faith in its objectivity,” he wrote.
He also accused Mr Biden of trying to avoid questions over reports about purported emails from his son, Hunter, and alleged conflicts of interest.
Joe Biden’s Camp –
The Democrat’s camp hit back that it was actually Mr Trump who was trying to duck questions.
“The campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics,” said national press secretary TJ Ducklo.
“The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response.
“As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs.”
Rules For Upcoming Tv Debate –
Following public criticism over the handling of the first debate, the commission has adopted a new rule to mute microphones in the final event.
The 90-minute debate structure will be divided into 15-minute segments. At the start of each new topic, both candidates will have two minutes of uninterrupted time – during which the opponent’s microphone will be off.
The rest of the time will be open discussion – and the microphones will not be muted during this period.
In a statement announcing the decision, the debate commission said they determined it was “appropriate to adopt measures intended to promote adherence to agreed upon rules”.
The commission noted that “one [campaign] may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough”, but that these actions provided the right balance in the interests of the public.