President Donald Trump vowed Thursday not to participate in next week’s debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden after organizers announced will take place virtually because of the president’s diagnosis of COVID-19.
“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate” with Biden, Trump told Fox Business, moments after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the changes.
“That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate. It’s ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want.”
“They’re trying to protect Biden,” the president said. “Everybody is.”
That cast serious doubts on whether the event will go forward, even as Biden’s campaign said its candidate will participate.
“Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people,” deputy Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.
The announcement from the Commission on Presidential Debates claimed a need “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.”
The candidates will “participate from separate remote locations” while the participants and moderator remain in Miami, it said.
The announcement came a week before Biden and Trump were scheduled to face off in Florida.
The president was diagnosed with the coronavirus a week ago and but in a Tuesday tweet said he looked forward to debating Biden on stage in Miami.
“It will be great!” he tweeted.
I am looking forward to the debate on the evening of Thursday, October 15th in Miami. It will be great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2020
Biden, however, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive.
The former vice president told reporters in Pennsylvania that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.”
Trump fell ill with the virus last Thursday, just 48 hours after debating Biden in person for the first time in Cleveland. While the two candidates remained a dozen feet apart during the debate, Biden was concerned about possible exposure and underwent multiple COVID-19 tests before returning to the campaign trail.
The president was still contagious with the virus when he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, but in an update Wednesday, his doctor said he had been symptom-free for 24 hours.
White House physician Sean P. Conley said Trump is in good health and has officially tested positive for the antibodies associated with kicking the virus.
“The President this morning says ‘I feel great!’” Conley wrote to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “His physical exam and vital signs, including oxygen saturation and respiratory rate, all remain stable and in normal range.”
“He’s now been fever free for more than 4 days, symptom-free for over 24 hours, and has not needed nor received any supplemental oxygen since initial hospitalization,” the doctor added.
“Of note today, the President’s labs demonstrated detectable levels of SARS-CoV IgC antibodies from labs drawn Monday, October 5th; initial IgC levels drawn late Thursday night were undetectable.”
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) October 7, 2020
It would not be the first debate in which the candidates were not in the same room. In 1960, the third presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy was broadcast with the two candidates on opposite coasts.
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