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Trump Won’t Participate In Virtual Presidential Debate, Will “Do A Rally” Instead

The Commission For Presidential Debates announced Thursday that the second debate would be held remotely, but Trump said he would not “waste” his time.

President Trump returns to the White House on October 5, 2020 after being discharged from the hospital just days after testing positive for COVID-19. | Getty Images
President Trump returns to the White House on October 5, 2020 after being discharged from the hospital just days after testing positive for COVID-19. | Getty Images

President Trump said he will not be doing a virtual debate, despite announcing he tested positive for COVID-19 less than a week ago. Campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement that the president will “do a rally instead.”

The Commission On Presidential Debates announced Thursday that the October 15 debate between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden would “take the form of a town meeting,” with the two candidates participating remotely. 

In a phone interview with Fox Business on Thursday morning, Trump said he’d decline to participate. 

“I’m not gonna do a virtual debate,” Trump said. “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.”

“And then they cut you off whenever they want,” Trump continued. 

Biden’s campaign announced today that because of the president's refusal to accept the debate format, the Democratic nominee instead will “find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly.”  

“Vice President Biden looks 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,” Kate Bedingfield, a deputy Biden campaign manager, said in a statement to multiple outlets.

The CPD said the decision to hold the debate virtually was to “protect the health and safety of all involved.” The day after the first debate on September 29, the CPD announced it would change the format, following widespread criticism from viewers and pundits.

Last Friday, the president announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19. He was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center that evening and discharged on Monday. His doctor Sean Conley said Monday that the president “may not entirely be out of the woods yet.” The White House has refused to disclose when Trump last tested negative. 

Trump tweeted that he was “feeling really good” before being discharged. The president also encouraged people not “to be afraid” of COVID-19, which caused an uproar among medical professionals and others  outraged by the president once again downplaying a virus that has killed more than 211,000 people in the U.S. 

According to Politico, at least 34 people in the president’s orbit, including White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, former adviser Kellyanne Conway, and Republican Sens. Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days. 

At least 11 people who helped put on the last presidential debate reportedly tested positive. 

This story has been updated with a new statement from the Biden campaign.