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Trump, Biden teams are going at it pre-debate: Secret earpieces, forbidden questions and more

President Donald Trump speaking at a "Keep America Great" rally in Phoenix, Ariz. in February 2020. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr) | Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking at the 2019 Iowa Federation of Labor Convention in Altoona, Iowa in August 2019. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
September 29, 2020

President Donald Trump’s and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaigns are sparring over a series of last-minute requests involving earpieces, breaks, forbidden questions, and more ahead of their first debate Tuesday night.

Fox News first reported that Trump’s campaign team had requested a third party to inspect both candidates’ ears to confirm neither is using an earpiece. Later on Tuesday, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh claimed the Biden team had agreed to the ear inspection, but suddenly changed their minds.

Murtaugh said in a campaign statement on Tuesday, “Joe Biden’s handlers several days ago agreed to a pre-debate inspection for electronic earpieces but today abruptly reversed themselves and declined.”

Sources for Fox News also said Biden’s team was requesting two breaks during the 90-minute debate, breaking up the debate into three 30-minute segments.

“Biden’s handlers have asked for multiple breaks during the debate,” Murtaugh said, “which President Trump doesn’t need, so we have rejected that request. On top of the refusal to take a drug test, it seems pretty obvious that the Biden team is looking for any safety net they can find in the hours leading up to the debate. With his 47 years as a failed Washington politician, how much help does Biden want?”

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Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told reporters that the Trump campaign request for ear inspections was “absurd.” She also denied the claims that Biden had asked for the breaks in the debate.

“His staff seems concerned that he may not do well tonight and they’re already laying the groundwork for how they’re going to lie about why,” Bedingfield said. “It is completely absurd. Of course, he’s not wearing an earpiece and we never asked for breaks.”

Bedingfield then reportedly claimed the Trump campaign requested that debate moderator and Fox News host Chris Wallace not mention the U.S. coronavirus death toll, which has surpassed 200,000 people.

“Biden’s @KBeds also says that the Trump campaign requested that debate moderator Chris Wallace not mention that more than 200,000 people have died from Covid-19,” Politico reporter Christopher Cadelago tweeted.

Last week, Wallace announced the coronavirus would be one of six topics discussed during the debate.

Responding to Bedingfield’s comments, Murtaugh tweeted, “This is a lie and it never happened. This is the height of playing politics with a public health crisis. Biden is trying to distract from the facts that he won’t submit to an inspection for earpieces, won’t take a drug test, and needs multiple breaks during the 90-minute debate.”

On Sunday, Trump had tweeted a demand that he and Biden submit to a drug test either prior to the debate or after.

Trump tweeted, “I will be strongly demanding a Drug Test of Sleepy Joe Biden prior to, or after, the Debate on Tuesday night. Naturally, I will agree to take one also. His Debate performances have been record setting UNEVEN, to put it mildly. Only drugs could have caused this discrepancy???”

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in August, suggested not doing the debates altogether and accused Trump of dishonest attacks, saying, “I do not think that the president of the United States has comported himself in a way that anybody has any association with truth, evidence, data and facts.”