WASHINGTON (AP) — 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,” Trump told Fox Business News, moments after the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced the changes.
The shakeup comes a week before Trump and Biden were set to square off for the second presidential debate in Miami. Biden’s campaign insisted its candidate was ready to move forward, but the future of the event is now in serious doubt.
The Commission on Presidential Debates made the decision unilaterally, citing the need “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.”
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,” Bill Stepien, Trump campaign manager said in a statement. “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.”
Trump was hospitalized for three days but is now back at the White House recovering. He has vowed to return to the campaign trail soon. Still, the commission’s move is yet another indication that the presidential election is being dominated by the virus — defying the president’s monthslong attempts to underplay it and declare that the country was ready to move on.