The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates said Thursday a second debate between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden would take place virtually amid the fallout from Trump’s diagnosis of COVID-19 — a change denounced by the incumbent.
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business.
The commission said the candidates were to “participate from separate remote locations” on Oct. 15 “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.”
The moderator Steve Scully of C-SPAN would remain in Miami as well as the participants, as the second debate is to scheduled to be conducted in the town hall format, in which some selected voters ask the nominees questions.
Former “vice-president Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people,” deputy Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.
For his part, Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo “that’s not what debating’s all about; you sit behind a computer and do a debate. That’s ridiculous, and then they cut you off whenever they want.”
Trump was criticized for a chaotic performance at the first debate in Cleveland on Sept. 29, in which he interrupted Biden numerous times.
Kennedy, Nixon in 3rd meeting from separate locations:
It is not unprecedented for candidates to appear from separate locations. John F. Kennedy participated from New York and Richard Nixon from Los Angeles in one of their four debates in 1960, with the moderator located in Chicago.
There is also precedent for a president skipping a debate. Jimmy Carter chose not to participate in a September 1980 debate in which independent candidate John Anderson was invited but took part the following month in a two-person debate with Republican Ronald Reagan.
Trump campaign floats idea of rally
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who is among several people associated with the president to test positive, said that safety could be ensured at a debate with both candidates on the same stage.
“We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”
Biden had said earlier in the week he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID-19 positive.
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After a rash of positive tests emanating from the White House and the administration’s unwillingness to reveal specifics of the timeline of Trump’s diagnosis, the Biden camp has wondered if the president was displaying symptoms at the first debate.
Biden and running mate Kamala Harris, who debated Vice-President Mike Pence on Wednesday night, have undergone multiple COVID-19 tests since.
‘I don’t think I’m contagious’: Trump
Trump was still contagious with the virus when he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, but his doctors have not provided any detailed update on his status.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can be contagious for up to 10 days and should isolate accordingly.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine react:
As Democrats have been hoping & begging for, the Commission on Presidential Debates cancelled in-person debates for the rest of campaign. Now cancel the Commission. It’s a disgrace <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/LetThemDebate?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#LetThemDebate</a>
I want to see a debate with an empty Zoom screen where Trump should have been. Coward. <a href=”https://t.co/dVIQImbV6M”>https://t.co/dVIQImbV6M</a>
Trump said in the Fox interview he’s feeling better and that he has stopped taking “most therapeutics” but is still taking steroids during his treatment.
“I don’t think I’m contagious at all,” he said.
It had been variously reported that Trump was being administered the steroid dexamethasone, the antiviral drug remdesivir and Regeneron’s REGN-COV2 drug cocktail.
Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, said in a memo Wednesday that Trump had been symptom-free for over 24 hours and that his oxygen saturation level and respiratory rate were normal. The memo also said a blood test Monday showed Trump had coronavirus antibodies, substances that fight infection, but he had been given an experimental drug on Friday containing these.
Regeneron said it’s not possible for this type of blood test to distinguish between antibodies Trump’s body may be making and those supplied by the company’s drug. Most likely, the ones detected in the Monday test are from the drug, the company said.
There is a third presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 22 in Nashville.