After the Commission on Presidential Debates announced it would make the second match between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden a virtual affair, Trump promptly said he would not participate. Now, the debate has been scrapped altogether, as Trump recovers in the White House from coronavirus, and ABC announced Thursday it would instead host a town hall with Biden on October 15.
George Stephanopoulos will moderate the event in Philadelphia, the network said.
The debate was to take place in Miami, Florida, even in the case of a virtual event, and be moderated by C-SPAN’s Steve Scully. Trump said, “I’m not going to waste my time with a virtual debate,” Thursday morning.
Here’s what you need to know:
With Trump Recovering from Coronavirus & Concerns About Safety, the Commission on Presidential Debates Decided Thursday a Virtual Debate Was Best
Although Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, most recently reported that Trump was recovering well from coronavirus, for which he tested positive on or around October 1, and reporting no symptoms, the president still has not been seen live on video. Medical experts advising the debate commission warned against an in-person debate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that people with severe cases of coronavirus may need to isolate for up to 20 days after symptoms appear. For Trump, that could mean an October 15 debate would be risky.
In an interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo Thursday, Trump said, “I’m not going to waste my time in a virtual debate,” and added that the moderator would be more able cut off candidates who interrupt while the other is speaking in a virtual debate.
“That’s not acceptable to us,” Trump said. “I beat him easily in first debate, according to polls I’ve seen … I think [Biden] felt it, too. He wouldn’t answer any questions and he had the protection of Chris Wallace all night long. I thought Chris Wallace was a disaster, but I beat him in the first debate.”
Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager who is also in isolation after contracting coronavirus, then suggested changing the debate schedule, CBS’s Mark Knoller reported.
Voters should be able to “see the two candidates face to face two more times,” Stepien said.
The Biden campaign fired back shortly, committing to the debate schedule and calling Trump’s behavior “erratic.”
“Trump doesn’t make the debate schedule — the Debate Commission does,” a campaign spokesperson said. “We accepted the three dates — September 29, October 15 and October 22 — in June. Trump chose today to pull out of the October 15 debate. Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar.”
Biden, as well as ABC, appeared to move full steam ahead, nevertheless, scheduling the Biden town hall for October 15.
Thursday afternoon, it was still unclear whether Trump would hold a rally of some sort that same night. Heavy reached out to Stepien, but did not immediately hear back.
The Biden Campaign On Thursday Said They Looked Forward to the Originally Scheduled Final Debate on October 22
Later on Thursday, Conley released a statement saying he believed Trump would be medically able to go back to campaigning this weekend, the Associated Press reported.
Stepien then said that the October 15 debate should be switched back to an in-person affair, but the commission declined to revisit its decision.
The Biden campaign also remained opposed to changing the debate schedule to allow one more contest on October 29.
“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,” Kate Beddingfield, a spokeswoman for Biden, told CBS News. “Donald Trump can show up, or he can decline again. That’s his choice.”