UPDATE VIA AP, 1:00 PM EDT: It’s suddenly up in air when the next presidential debate, or maybe debates, may take place.
President Donald Trump said Thursday he would skip next week’s faceoff with Democratic nominee Joe Biden after organizers said it would be held virtually after Trump got COVID-19.
Biden’s campaign countered by asking for next Thursday’s town hall style event — the second debate for the candidates —to instead be moved back a week “so the president is not able to evade accountability.”
Trump advisers counter-countered that a short time later by saying the second debate should indeed be delayed until Oct. 22 and that a third should be rescheduled for the following week, just before Election Day. And they insisted anew that the candidates must meet face to face.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: (Headline USA) President Donald Trump vowed Thursday not to participate in next week’s debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden after organizers announced it will take place virtually because of the president’s diagnosis of COVID-19.
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate” with Biden, Trump told Fox News, moments after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the changes due to Trump’s diagnosis.
“President Trump will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate, so there is no need for this unilateral declaration,” said Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, in a statement.
Trump’s campaign said the president would do a rally instead of the debate.
“For the swamp creatures at the Presidential Debate Commission to now rush to Joe Biden’s defense by unilaterally canceling an in-person debate is pathetic,” Stepien said. “The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without canceling a chance for voters to see both candidates go head to head. We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”
That cast serious doubts on whether the event will go forward, even as Biden’s campaign vowed that its candidate is willing to participate.
“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,” Biden said to reporters in Delaware, according to Fox News. “I’m going to follow the commission recommendations.”
The announcement from the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates cited a need “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.”
The candidates will “participate from separate remote locations” while the participants and moderator remain in Miami, it said.
The announcement came a week before Biden and Trump were scheduled to face off in Miami.
Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus a week ago and but in a Tuesday tweet said he looked forward to debating Biden on stage in Miami.
“It will be great!” he tweeted.
Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive.
Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.”
Trump fell ill with the virus last Thursday, just 48 hours after debating Biden in person for the first time in Cleveland.
While the two candidates remained a dozen feet apart during the debate, Trump’s infection sparked health concerns for Biden and sent him to undergo multiple COVID-19 tests before returning to the campaign trail.
Trump was still contagious with the virus when he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can be contagious for as many as — and should isolate for at least — 10 days.
It’s not the first debate in which the candidates are not in the same room.
In 1960, the third presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy was broadcast with the two candidates on opposite coasts.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.