Commission on Presidential Debates Cancels Oct. 15 Debate
President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden participate in their first 2020 presidential campaign debate on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, September 29, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Commission on Presidential Debates has canceled the second scheduled debate between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden on October 15 after the president refused to participate in a virtual debate. 

A statement from the CPD announced the debate “will not proceed,” while saying the final scheduled debate the following week is still expected.

“It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22,” the commission said. 

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the debate, which had originally been scheduled as an in-person town hall style meet-up in Miami, would no longer take place next week.

One day before canceling the debate, the commission had announced that it planned to shift from holding an in-person event to a virtual format in light of the president’s coronavirus diagnosis.

Shortly after the announcement that the debate would be held remotely, Trump said that he would not participate in a virtual debate with Biden.

“The commission changed the debate style and that’s not acceptable to us,” Trump said Thursday morning. “I’m not going to do a virtual debate. I’m not going to waste my time at a virtual debate.”

“I beat him in the first debate. I beat him easily,” Trump said, adding that he expects to “beat him in the second debate also” but refuses to “sit at a computer” to debate Biden, an arrangement he called “ridiculous.”

“They’re trying to protect Biden,” Trump said. “Everybody is.”

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who also tested positive for the coronavirus last week, had also blasted the commission’s decision to move the debate online saying “that’s not what debates are about or how they’re done.”

“Here are the facts: President Trump will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate, so there is no need for this unilateral declaration. The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without canceling a chance for voters to see both candidates go head to head,” Stepien said.

The Trump campaign later called on the commission to delay the two remaining debates, a proposal the Biden campaign rejected. 

Trump has largely stayed out of the public eye since being admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 2, where he remained for three days.

He has not held a campaign rally since September 30 when Hope Hicks, a top White House aide, began showing symptoms of the coronavirus. Hicks and Trump tested positive for the virus the following day.

Officials said on Friday that the president planned to hold his first in-person event since his diagnosis at the White House on Saturday, during which time he will deliver remarks on law and order issues from the South Portico balcony, the Journal reported. Trump announced he would hold a campaign rally on Monday in Florida, as well.

Guests will be asked to wear a mask on the White House grounds and will be subject to temperature checks and a brief questionnaire about recent symptoms, the Journal reported.

Trump’s physician Dr. Sean Conley issued a statement Thursday evening saying that he anticipated Trump would be able to hold public events again by Saturday.

“Overall he’s responded extremely well to treatment, without evidence on examination of adverse therapeutic effects,” Dr. Conley wrote, adding that, “Saturday will be day 10 since Thursday’s diagnosis, and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the president’s safe return to public engagement at that time.”

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