President Donald Trump‘s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said in a statement Thursday morning, October 8, that Trump would not participate in the second debate, after the Commission on Presidential Debates decided that it would be held virtually.
Despite the fact that the president is still shedding the coronavirus, and with the next debate between him and Joe Biden set for just one week out, the campaign said Trump would hold a rally instead. It was unclear if the rally would feature Trump in person or be virtual.
The Biden campaign agreed to participate, CNN reported.
The Commission Announced That the Miami Debate Would Be Virtual ‘To Protect the Health & Safety of All Involved’ & Trump Said He Wouldn’t ‘Waste Time’ on It
The Commission on Presidential Debates says the 2nd Trump v. Biden debate – a week from today – will be VIRTUAL. Will still be a TOWN HALL style. Steve Scully & undecided voters will be in Miami. Trump will be at White House. Biden will also be remote.
— James Hohmann (@jameshohmann) October 8, 2020
The CPD issued a statement Thursday morning from Washington, D.C., announcing that the debate would be held virtually “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved.”
The debate will be held “town meeting” style, with the audience, who will presumably ask questions, as well as moderator Steve Scully, in an auditorium in Miami, Florida, per the statement.
In an interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo Thursday, Trump said, “I’m not going to waste my time in a virtual debate,” pointing to the likelihood that the moderator would be able to cut off candidates who interrupt while the other is speaking.
"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
“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.”
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” he continued. “I’m not going to waste my time in a virtual debate. That’s not what debating’s all about, you sit behind a computer. It’s ridiculous and they cut you off whenever they want.”
The Commission Said There Was ‘No Law’ Requiring Trump Participate in the Debate
Frank Fahrenkopf, the head of the commission, told CNN that his organization did not consult with either campaign before deciding on the virtual format, but that the Cleveland Clinic supported their decision.
He added that there was “no law” requiring Trump to participate.
“Jimmy Carter refused to debate during the first debate in 1980,” he told NBC’s Peter Alexander. “It is up to the individual candidate.”
NEW: CPD’s chairman Frank Fahrenkopf responds after Trump says he’s not going to do virtual debate, tells me: “No Presidential Candidate is required to debate. Jimmy Carter refused to debate during the first debate in 1980. It is up to the individual candidate.”
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) October 8, 2020
A spokesperson for the Biden campaign said that he “looks forward to speaking directly to the American people and comparing his plan for bringing the country together and building back better,” Mary Bruce, of ABC News reported.
Although Biden’s camp did agree to the event, it was unclear Thursday morning if it would go forward as a straightforward town hall, with just Biden appearing and taking questions from the moderator and audience.
Medical Experts Said That Trump Could Still Be Contagious by October 15, the Day of the Second Debate
Although the timeline remains muddled, it appears that Trump tested positive for COVID-19 sometime on October 1. He was flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the evening of October 2, Heavy reported.
A panel of University of California, San Francisco, medical experts this week said that, with the limited information about Trump’s symptoms, it was was difficult to say how recovered or contagious he could be by October 15, but the fact that he appeared out of breath when returning to the White House on October 5 was not a good sign, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The fact that Trump is on the steroid dexamethasone also suggests that his case of COVID-19 may be much worse than White House officials and Trump’s doctor, Sean Conley, have let on, the experts said.
Dr. Annie Luetkemeyer, a coronavirus expert, said that dexamethasone is usually given to people who are “really quite ill and require a lot of oxygen.”
You can watch the full conversation between medical experts here.
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.