Talk amongst yourselves — just not on a national debate stage.
That was Nancy Pelosi’s message to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden during her weekly news conference on Thursday. The House Speaker (D-Ca.) ended her presser by stating Biden shouldn’t “legitimize” what incumbent President Donald Trump has to say by debating him.
“Don’t tell anybody I told you this. Especially don’t tell Joe Biden. I don’t think that there should be any debates,” Pelosi said. “I do not think that the president of the United States has comported himself in a way … that has any association with truth, evidence, data and facts.”
“I don’t think that he should dignify that conversation with Donald Trump.”
Pelosi called out Trump’s behavior during the second presidential debate in 2016, when he left his podium and walked behind his opponent, Hillary Clinton, during her speaking time. Clinton later said that it “made my skin crawl.”
“I thought what he did in 2016 was disgraceful, stalking Hillary Clinton like that,” Pelosi said, noting she was disappointed that the press covering the debate didn’t tell him to “go back to your station. You don’t own this stage” at the time. And she expects more “skulduggery” when Trump debates Biden.
“I think that he’ll probably act in a way that is beneath the dignity of the presidency. He does that every day,” Pelosi added. “But I think he will also belittle what the debates are supposed to be about.”
Her solution? To have each candidate address the American people and counter their opponents’ arguments individually. “Both of them, just take their own stage for any number of conversations about any subjects,” she said. “Let that be a conversation with the American people, not an exercise in skulduggery.”
Her remarks raised plenty of eyebrows on social media. Some critics accused her of undermining Biden’s ability to perform, with James Woods calling her a “coward” on Twitter
“Do you see just how little Democrats think of Joe Biden? They are trying to protect him from getting absolutely mangled by Trump,” tweeted another under the name Stonewall Jackson.
Others saw her remarks as insult to an American public that expects to be able to see how both candidates match up before picking one to lead. “Who does Nancy Pelosi think she is to simply declare that hundreds of millions of people have no right to compare the two Presidential candidates, side by side, talk about issues,” tweeted one viewer.
Pelosi doesn’t speak for the Biden campaign, however. In fact, Biden has said he’s looking forward to facing off against Trump.
“I can hardly wait. I can hardly wait to deal with what he refers to himself as a ‘stable genius,’” Biden told NBC affiliate WBRE at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. “I can hardly wait to debate him.”
Follow MarketWatch’s election 2020 coverage here.