How Partisan Media Outlets Are Previewing the Debate

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 J. Trump by questioning the fairness of the debate, which CNN will host, as well as President Biden’s fitness for it. Several publications piled on Mr. Trump’s longstanding criticism that CNN is biased against him. Many also repeated Mr. Trump’s baseless claim that Mr. Biden would be under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs during the event.

Liberal outlets criticized Mr. 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 Mr. Trump was an erratic candidate.

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

Mr. 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 on Monday with a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s campaign after she criticized the network’s commentators.

During the interview, with the 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 Mr. Trump. She said Mr. Tapper had frequently compared Mr. Trump to Adolf Hitler.

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

On Newsmax, hosts and guests suggested the incident signaled how the network would treat Mr. 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.

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

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

Breitbart, a conservative outlet, suggested in an article on Tuesday that Mr. 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 Mr. Biden’s latest physical exam, like minor heart arrhythmia and elevated cholesterol.

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

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

Writing for Slate, a liberal news site, Jim Newell said on Tuesday that Mr. Trump’s campaign was trying to avoid the “trap” of attacking Mr. Biden so hard that it ultimately lowered expectations for his opponent’s performance. If that happened, voters could come away thinking Mr. 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,” Mr. Newell wrote. He pointed out that after frequently questioning Mr. Biden’s fitness for a lengthy debate, Mr. Trump recently changed his tune, saying he didn’t “want to underestimate” his opponent.

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

An article on Tuesday ran with the headline “Panicking Trump Tries Yet Another Get-Out-of-Debate-Free Card.” In it, Edith Olmsted wrote that Mr. Trump’s call for Mr. 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,” Ms. 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.”

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