CLEVELAND -- President Trump is asking for an additional ground rule ahead of Tuesday night’s first presidential debate between himself and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. But the Biden campaign is rejecting it.
Fox News has learned that the president’s re-election campaign wants the Biden campaign to allow a third party to inspect the ears of each debater for electronic devices or transmitters. The president has consented to this kind of inspection, but a source said the Biden campaign has declined the ear check.
The Trump campaign, in the hours ahead of the debate, claimed Biden's campaign had agreed to such an inspection before reversing themselves.
“Joe Biden’s handlers several days ago agreed to a pre-debate inspection for electronic earpieces but today abruptly reversed themselves and declined. Biden’s handlers have asked for multiple breaks during the debate, which President Trump doesn’t need, so we have rejected that request," Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. "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?
Over the last several weeks, sources told Fox News, the former vice president's campaign has also requested two breaks -- one every 30 minutes -- to break up the 90-minute commercial-free program. But that request has been denied by their Trump counterparts, the sources said.
A Trump campaign source told Fox News that "our guy doesn't need breaks. He gives 90-minute speeches all the time."
Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, called the Trump campaign’s request “absurd” in a call with reporters. She also denied the claim that the campaign had asked for breaks.
"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 emphasized. "It is completely absurd. Of course, he’s not wearing an earpiece and we never asked for breaks."
The debate – the first of three between Biden and Trump -- kicks off at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday and is being hosted by Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. The showdown’s being moderated by "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace.
Bedingfield, speaking with reporters, added that "if we’re playing that game, the Trump team asked that Chris Wallace never mention the number of COVID deaths once during the debate. You can considered that confirmed from the Biden campaign. See how easy that was to try and throw out a distraction. It is pathetic. It’s weak. Once again the Trump campaign is lying. They’re going to process because they don’t want to debate Joe Biden on the substance. You go to process when you can’t go to substance."
Murtaugh fired back that "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."
Fox News has reached out to the Commission on Presidential debates – the bipartisan organization that for more than three decades has organized and produced the debates – for a response to the requests.
The commission has traditionally pushed back against requests from the networks for commercial breaks.
Fox News’ John Roberts contributed to this report.