As the prospect of facing President Donald Trump face-to-face looms, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign wants less and less to do with it.
On Wednesday, the Commission on Presidential Debates said the scheduled Oct. 15 debate would be held virtually, citing Trump’s recent hospitalization with the coronavirus and existing rules regarding individuals remaining in quarantine after testing positive.
The president labeled the proposal “ridiculous.”
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump said during an interview on Fox Business. “I’m not going to waste my time at a virtual debate. 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,” he said. “Everybody is.”
The Biden campaign’s first response was to suggest that one fewer debate be held, with the Oct. 22 showdown becoming a town hall-style forum, the format scheduled for the Oct. 15 debate, according to Fox News.
The Trump campaign then proposed keeping two debates but changing the dates instead of the format, with one debate held Oct. 22 and the other Oct. 29. That was vetoed by the Biden campaign on the grounds that the Trump campaign cannot dictate when debates are held.
The Trump campaign said the unilateral decision to change the format of the Oct. 15 debate was a disservice to the voters.
“The American people should not be deprived of the chance to see the two candidates for president debate face to face two more times just because the Commission on Presidential Debates wants to protect Joe Biden,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement.
The “new virtual format” was “extremely suspect,” Stepien said.
“As President Trump said, a virtual debate is a non-starter and would clearly be a gift to Biden because he would be relying on his teleprompter from his basement bunker,” he said.
Although the Biden campaign said the Trump campaign was trying to dodge a town hall-style event by rejecting the virtual format, Stepien said quite the reverse was true.
“Voters should have the opportunity to directly question Biden’s 47-year failed record of leadership,” he said. “We agree that this should happen on October 22, and accordingly, the third debate should then be shifted back one week to October 29.”
“[T]he CPD and the media cannot hide Joe Biden forever,” he said.
Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield fired back, saying in a statement, “Donald Trump doesn’t make the debate schedule; the Debate Commission does.”
“We accepted the three dates — Sept. 29, Oct. 15, and Oct. 22 — in June,” she said. “Trump chose today to pull out of the October 15th debate.”
“Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing,” Bedingfield said. “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.”
ABC News was quick to fill the Oct. 15 void, scheduling a town hall event with Biden in Philadelphia that night.
JUST IN: @ABC News will host a town hall with @JoeBiden moderated by @GStephanopoulos on October 15th. The primetime event will take place in Philadelphia where the former vice president will answer questions from voters. pic.twitter.com/7IPzdqK9Sx
— ABC News (@ABC) October 8, 2020
The former vice president said he will do as the commission said and ridiculed Trump.
“We don’t know what the president is going to do, he changes his mind every second so for me to comment on that now would be irresponsible. I think that if — I’m going to follow the commission recommendations. If he goes off and he’s going to have a rally, I’ll — I don’t know what I’ll do,” Biden said, according to Fox News.
“You never know what’s going to come out of his mouth,” he said.
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