President Donald Trump, who remains infected with COVID-19 after being diagnosed last week, declared on Thursday that he would not participate in the upcoming debate with his Democratic challenger Joe Biden next week after the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) changed the debate to a virtual format due to Trump’s illness.
Shortly after the CPD announced the change, Trump railed against the decision during an interview on Fox Business, saying that the new format, which had been decided unilaterally by the commission, was “not acceptable to us.”
“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating’s all about,” Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo. “You sit behind a computer and do a debate…That’s ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want.”
The President will hold a rally instead, according to Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who claimed in a statement that Trump “will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate.”
“The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without canceling a chance for voters to see both candidates go head to head,” Stepien said. “We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”
A Biden campaign aide told TPM that Trump abandoning the debate “shows that yet again, one candidate is leading while the other is whining.”
“It’s no surprise since Trump has spent the last four years putting himself and his own political gain above the interests of the American people,” the aide said. “This is just the latest example of why these two candidates are the polar opposite from one another.”
Earlier on Thursday morning, the CPD announced the debate, originally slated to be held in Miami, Florida, on October 15, would be virtual “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved” as Trump remains infected with the virus after a stay at Walter Reed Medical Center this past weekend.
“The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations,” according to the commission.
On Tuesday, Biden argued that the debate in Miami, Florida next week ought to be cancelled if President remains infected with COVID-19.
The Trump campaign pushed back against the Democrat’s suggestion, insisting that the President “will be healthy and will be there.”
This post has been updated.