WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Thursday (Oct 8) he would not participate in a debate with Democrat Joe Biden under a new format announced by the debates commission in which each candidate would appear at remote locations.
In an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Trump said the new virtual format announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates was “not acceptable” to him.
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” he said. “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate, that’s not what debating is all about.”
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He added: “You sit behind a computer and do a debate – it’s ridiculous and then they cut you off whenever they want.”
That cast serious doubts on whether the event will go forward, even as Biden’s campaign vowed that its candidate will participate.
Biden told reporters on Thursday he would follow the recommendations of the debate commission. Biden said he did not know what action he would take if Trump refused to take part.
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“We don’t know what the president’s going to do. He changes his mind every second,” Biden added.
Deputy Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said Biden looked “forward to speaking directly to the American people and comparing his plan for bringing the country together and building back better with Donald Trump’s failed leadership on the coronavirus that has thrown the strong economy he inherited into the worst downturn since the Great Depression”.
Trump accused the bipartisan debate commission of trying to “protect” his opponent Biden.
He added that he was well enough to hold campaign rallies and that he did not think he was contagious.
The second presidential debate was scheduled on Oct 15 in Miami.
After the president’s diagnosis of COVID-19, the plan was for the candidates to “participate from separate remote locations”, while the participants and moderator Steve Scullyremain in Miami, the commission said.
It added the decision was made “to protect the health and safety of all involved”.
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Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus a week ago and had said he looked forward to debating Biden on stage in Miami, saying, “It will be great!”
Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID-19 positive.
Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania earlier that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines”.
After the first debate, there were concerns about whether Trump had infected Biden and moderator Chris Wallace. Biden has tested negative.
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