Fox News floats Virginia State University as host for vice presidential debate

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ETTRICK – Is a debate still in the cards for Virginia State University? Fox News hopes so.

In a letter Friday to both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns, Fox News has offered to moderate a debate between Vice President Kamala Harris and the yet-to-be determined running mate of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump. Trump immediately accepted the invitation, even calling out VSU by name, but President Joe Biden’s camp does not appear to be as intrigued.

And the university says it has “made no commitments” outside of its agreement with the sponsors of the original schedule of debates. VSU still has the announcement of the Oct. 1 presidential debate on its website.

On Thursday, the Biden-Harris campaign agreed to a vice-presidential debate on CBS, but that is different from what Fox News proposed.

A Biden-Harris spokesperson told The Progress-Index an official statement was coming. At the time of publishing, that statement had not been received.

However, other media outlets have reported that the Democratic campaign is lukewarm to anything other than the CBS faceoff.

A consolation prize?

A debate between Harris and Trump’s running mate could be a consolation prize for VSU, picked last November by the Commission on Presidential Debates as the first Historically Black College or University [HBCU] to host such a forum. That debate – the second in a series of three on college campuses across the U.S. – would have taken place Oct. 1 at the VSU Multipurpose Center.

However, Biden said Wednesday he would not agree to that schedule, throwing the plans for VSU, Texas State University and the University of Utah as debate hosts into jeopardy. Instead, he proposed two debates, to be broadcast on CNN and ABC, respectively.

Fox News political anchor Bret Baier announced the proposal on the air Friday afternoon, offering the dates of July 23, Aug. 13 or sometime after the Democratic and Republican national conventions. It was part of a pitch the news network made to both campaigns for a third debate between Biden and Trump to be broadcast on Fox.

“You know, this is the Wild West of debate proposals,” Baier said. He added that Fox News had reached out to VSU about hosting the debate, but that could not be immediately confirmed by The Progress-Index.

An immediate ‘yes’ from Trump

Within minutes after offering the proposal, Baier said the former president accepted “on behalf of the future vice president of the United States, who I have not yet chosen.”

“I urge Vice President Kamala Harris to agree to this,” Baier quoted from Trump’s acceptance.

Baier said Trump encouraged that debate to be held “hopefully at Virginia State University.” Not long after that, Trump took to his Truth Social social-media account to say he had accepted a fourth debate with Biden to be held on NBC and Telemundo that would go along with the debates on CNN, ABC and Fox.

In that post, Trump mentioned the debate would be held “at Virginia State University, or another venue, in Virginia.

“These are the debates that voters have been asking for, and these are the debates that voters will get,” the former president posted.

'No commitments'

In an email to The Progress-Index, VSU spokesperson Gwen Williams Dandridge offered the following statement: “Virginia State University continues to work with the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) and at this point has made no commitments, outside of the CPD, regarding a debate.”

Asked in a follow-up email to confirm Fox News had contacted VSU, Dandridge has not yet responded.

The other two sites chosen by the commission, Texas State in San Marcos and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, also say they continue to hope a deal can be worked out to keep the debates.

Virginia last hosted a vice presidential debate in 2016 and featured Virginia. Sen Tim Kaine as the Democratic nominee. The last presidential debate held in Virginia occurred in 1992 at the University of Richmond.

Related: Va. senator not giving up on VSU debate; says 'incumbent' for Biden to come to campus

Related: Texas State was set to host first presidential debate. How Biden, Trump upended that plan.

Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is an award-winning journalist who covers breaking news, government and politics. Reach him at batkinson@progress-index.com or on X (formerly known as Twitter) at @BAtkinson_PI.

This article originally appeared on The Progress-Index: VSU floated by Fox News as possible vice president debate host