President Donald Trump announced Thursday he will not participate in the second presidential debate after the Commission on Presidential Debates said it will take place virtually.
“I am not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump toid Fox Business. “I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate.”
According to CNN, Trump complained during the interview that a virtual debate would mean he would have to “sit behind a computer” and the moderator could “cut you off whenever they want.”
The next debate is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 15, but Trump’s comment has thrown a wrench into those plans and ignited a war of words between the two campaigns. Biden’s spokesperson said the campaign would’ve agreed to a virtual format, but because the president bailed, they urged the commission to move the debate back a week and move the third and final debate to Oct. 29, less than a week before the election.
Hours later, Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien said they were willing to accept the terms, but then Biden’s campaign backed out with campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield saying in response, “Donald Trump doesn’t make the debate schedule; the Debate Commission does.”
“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,” Bedingfield said.
The move to make the next debate virtual was made due to Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis. Although the president is trying to give the appearance of having defeated the virus, it’s quite clear that he’s still carrying it and has infected others in his administration.
Trump, who is behind in almost every legitimate poll and in many swing states, can’t miss a chance to try and flip voters to his side. The first debate was watched by more than 73 million people and more than 50 million watched the vice presidential debate.
According to Bedingfield, if Trump sticks to his plan to not participate, Biden will hold a town hall elsewhere.
Frank Fahrenkopf, head of the debate commission, told CNN they talked with both campaigns before making the decision to conduct the debate virtually, but did not consult either side.
“We did not consult with them,” Fahrenkopf told CNN, adding the decision is “supported by the Cleveland Clinic,” the commission’s health advisers.
A virtual debate is not unprecedented — the third contest between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960 occurred with both candidates in different locations.