Partisan media outlets have fixated this week on Thursday night’s first presidential debate — and how their preferred candidate could prevail.

Many conservative media outlets have parroted former President Donald Trump by questioning the fairness of the debate, which CNN will host, as well as President Joe Biden’s fitness for it. Several publications piled on Trump’s long-standing criticism that CNN is biased against him. Many also repeated Trump’s baseless claim that Biden would be under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs during the event.

Liberal outlets criticized Trump and his campaign for making the claims about CNN and for the barbs about medication, saying both were lobbed out of desperation. They also suggested the debate could show Americans that Trump was an erratic candidate.

Here’s how a few of these outlets have covered the lead-up to the debate:

From the right


Trump has long criticized CNN for coverage he sees as hostile to him. Those concerns were inflamed on the political right this week when CNN abruptly ended an interview Monday with a spokesperson for Trump’s campaign after she criticized the network’s commentators.

During the interview, with CNN host Kasie Hunt, Karoline Leavitt of the Trump campaign accused Jake Tapper, a CNN host who is one of the two moderators of the debate, of being biased against Trump. She said Tapper had frequently compared Trump to Adolf Hitler.

Numerous right-wing outlets, including Fox News and The Daily Wire, carried stories attacking the network for silencing Leavitt and Trump’s campaign.

On Newsmax, hosts and guests suggested the incident signaled how the network would treat Trump unfairly at the debate.

“This is a precursor to Thursday,” Hilton Beckham, a communications director for the America First Policy Institute, said during a Monday interview on the Newsmax show “National Report.” “I think eyes need to be a little more on the CNN moderators.”

“The way she shut her down so quickly and actually ended the segment, I just got a weird sense that they’d been directed, that they need to end things,” Bianca de la Garza, a Newsmax host, said Monday on another program. , “Newsline.” She did not cite any evidence to support that allegation.

Also read | First US presidential debate: 6 things to watch out for in Biden-Trump face-off


Trump has repeatedly suggested that Biden would need medication in order to perform well at Thursday’s debate.

Trump’s campaign has also asked Biden to submit to a drug test before the debate. Biden’s campaign dismissed the request, saying in a statement that Trump was “resorting to desperate, obviously false lies.”

Breitbart, a conservative outlet, suggested in an article Tuesday that Biden was not healthy. Under the headline “Debate Prep: Donald Trump Agrees to Drug Test if Joe Biden Does,” the writer, Wendell Husebo, pointed to several ailments that were mentioned in Biden’s latest physical exam, like minor heart arrhythmia and elevated cholesterol.

“The health challenges might explain why he struggles to remain upright,” Husebo wrote, referring to instances in which Biden had stumbled or fallen down during his presidency. The physical described Biden as “healthy.”

From the left


Some progressive outlets have painted Trump as desperate and fearful that he would lose to Biden in the debate, even suggesting that his campaign was trying to raise expectations for Biden’s showing.

Writing for Slate, a liberal news site, Jim Newell said Tuesday that Trump’s campaign was trying to avoid the “trap” of attacking Biden so hard that it ultimately lowered expectations for his opponent’s performance. If that happened, voters could come away thinking Biden won the debate.

“Members of Team Trump, as well as the candidate himself, have recognized this tendency and are attempting to raise Biden’s expectations,” Newell wrote. He pointed out that after frequently questioning Biden’s fitness for a lengthy debate, Trump recently changed his tune, saying he didn’t “want to underestimate” his opponent.

Also read | How the Biden-Trump debate could change the trajectory of the 2024 campaign

The New Republic

The New Republic, a liberal outlet, has over the past week published more than a half-dozen articles critical of Trump’s approach to the debate.

An article Tuesday ran with the headline “Panicking Trump Tries Yet Another Get-Out-of-Debate-Free Card.” In it, Edith Olmsted wrote that Trump’s call for Biden to be drug tested was an attempt to skip the debate entirely.

“All of this concocted drama around drug use, as well as claims that CNN will host a biased debate, positively reek of desperation to get the former president out of Thursday night’s presidential showdown,” Olmsted wrote.

Other headlines from the site included “The Insanely Idiotic Ways Trump Is Prepping for the Biden Debate,” “Trump’s Wild Biden Debate Conspiracy Exposes His Own Hypocrisy” and “MAGA’s New Conspiracy to Defend Trump From Biden Debate Is Wildest Yet.”