Trump vows not to participate in virtual debate with Biden
President Donald Trump, who is still being treated for Covid-19, said Thursday he will refuse to take part in the presidential debate next week after it was switched to a virtual format.
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” he told Fox News, saying this was “not acceptable to us.”
He accused the bipartisan debate commission of trying to “protect” his opponent Joe Biden.
Trump and Biden were set to square off for the second presidential debate in Miami. Biden’s campaign insisted its candidate was ready to move forward, but the future of the event is now in serious doubt.
The Commission on Presidential Debates made the decision unilaterally, citing the need “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.”
When Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris squared off for their only vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night, they shared a stage but were separated by plexiglass to prevent the spread of the virus.
Trump’s campaign said the president would do a rally instead of the debate.
“For the swamp creatures at the Presidential Debate Commission to now rush to Joe Biden’s defense by unilaterally canceling an in-person debate is pathetic,” Bill Stepien, Trump campaign manager said in a statement. “The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without canceling a chance for voters to see both candidates go head to head. We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”
Trump was hospitalized for three days but is now back at the White House recovering. He has vowed to return to the campaign trail soon. Still, the commission’s move is yet another indication that the presidential election is being dominated by the virus — defying the president’s monthslong attempts to underplay it and declare that the country was ready to move on.
Trump is thought to be trailing in key battleground states. Even before his COVID-19 diagnosis, he was widely criticized for his chaotic performance during last week’s first presidential debate in Cleveland. Next week’s debate, and a third one set for the following week in Nashville, would have been a chance for him to attempt to reset the election and potentially change its trajectory.
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