In its place, the Biden campaign has announced that it will hold an alternative town hall on the night that the debate was supposed to take place, next Thursday, Oct. 15. (UPDATE: ABC News is confirmed to be hosting Biden’s town hall on Oct. 15.)
“Joe Biden was prepared to accept the [Commission on Presidential Debates’] proposal for a virtual Town Hall, but the president has refused, as Donald Trump clearly does not want to face questions from the voters about his failures from the voters about his failures on COVID and the economy,” the statement reads. “As a result, Joe Biden will find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly on Oct. 15, as he has done on several occasions in recent weeks.”
The Biden camp is also suggesting that the town hall-style debate be held the following week, on Oct. 22, which is when the third and final debate is still scheduled as of press time.
“Given the president’s refusal to participate on Oct. 15, we hope the Debate Commission will move the Biden-Trump Town Hall to Oct. 22, so that the president is not able to evade accountability,” the statement continues. “The voters should have a chance to ask questions of both candidates, directly. Every presidential candidate since 1992 has participated in such an event, and it would be a shame if Donald Trump was the first to refuse.”
Donald Trump doesn’t make the debate schedule; the Debate Commission does. We accepted the three dates — Sept. 29, Oct. 15, and Oct. 22 — in June. Trump chose today to pull out of the October 15th debate. Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing. We look forward to participating in the final debate, scheduled for October 22, which already is tied for the latest debate date in 40 years. Donald Trump can show up, or he can decline again. That’s his choice.”
On Thursday morning, the CPD announced that the candidates would appear remotely during the Oct. 15 debate “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved.” Shortly thereafter, Trump told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo that he would not attend unless the CPD reverses course and authorized an in-person event.
Biden had already agreed to the new format prior to Trump’s refusal. His campaign put out a statement earlier on Thursday, which read, “Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people and comparing his plan for bringing the country together and building back better with Donald Trump’s failed leadership on the coronavirus.”
While Trump and Biden would appear virtually, the debate would continue to take the form of a town hall-style meeting. Per the CPD, town meeting participants and moderator Steve Scully would still convene as planned at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami, Fla. When asked about Trump’s decision, CPD chairman Frank Fahrenkopf told NBC News that “no presidential candidate is required to debate,” and cited Jimmy Carter’s refusal to participate in the first debate against Ronald Reagan in 1980. “It is up to the individual candidate,” he said.
The decision to go virtual was the latest in a string of safety measures taken by the CPD. Ahead of Wednesday’s vice presidential debate, the commission installed two layers of plexiglass between Mike Pence and Democratic challenger Kamala Harris, and put more than 12 feet of distance between the candidates.