President Donald Trump said on Thursday morning that he will not take part in a virtual second presidential debate.
The moment: “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous,” Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo.
- “That’s not acceptable to us.”
Trump, who has COVID-19, alleged the change in the debate format was an attempt to “protect [Joe] Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee.
- He also called the moderator, C-SPAN’s Steve Scully, a “never Trumper,” suggesting he would be biased against him like the moderator of the first debate, Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
The switcheroo: The Commission on Presidential Debates announced earlier in the morning that Trump and Biden will appear at next Thursday’s debate from “separate remote locations.”
- Organizers told The New York Times Scully will still lead a town hall-style voter forum in-person at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.
- According to the Times, the commission decided to switch to go virtual after members of its production team raised safety concerns about staging the event indoors.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement on Thursday that the president’s team would “pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”
- Stepien — who is among dozens of White House staffers and contacts with COVID-19 — also predicted Trump “will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate.”
The Biden campaign had readily agreed to do the debate virtually, but the candidate sounded confused after Trump said he was pulling out.
- “I don’t know what the president is going to do. He changes his mind every second,” Biden told reporters.
- “For me to comment on that now would be irresponsible. I think that if I can follow the commission’s recommendations — if he goes off and has a rally, I’ll — I don’t know what I’ll do.”
- Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, faced-off on Wednesday night from behind symbolic plexiglass barriers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
- The third and final presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, with NBC News’ Kristen Welker moderating.