President Donald Trump says he will not participate in the second presidential debate, which is set to go virtual after POTUS and First Lady Melania tested positive for COVID-19.
On Thursday morning, the Commission on Presidential Debates 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 authorizes an in-person event.
“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” Trump said. “That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate… That’s ridiculous.”
"I'm not going to waste my time on a virtual debate" — Trump, on with Maria Bartiromo, begins his first post-coronavirus interview by saying he's pulling out of the second debate. (He sounds a little hoarse.) pic.twitter.com/R43JSszfll
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 8, 2020
Biden had already agreed to the new format prior to Trump’s refusal. His campaign put out a statement 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.” (UPDATE: Biden has announced an alternate town hall event for Oct. 15.)
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 is 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.
Since Trump and FLOTUS were first diagnosed with the coronavirus, multiple administration officials — including Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, Trump’s personal assistant Nick Luna, senior advisor Stephen Miller and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany — have also caught COVID. Biden, Pence and Harris have all continued to test negative.
What do you think of the decision to go virtual for the second debate? And do you think Trump will eventually cave and agree to participate?