Donald Trump refuses virtual second presidential debate with Joe Biden after coronavirus diagnosis
US President Donald Trump says he will not participate in a virtual debate with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
- Mr Trump said the new virtual format was not acceptable and would do a rally instead
- He said he has stopped taking most therapeutics for the virus, but was still taking steroids
- The comments cast doubts on whether the event will go forward
The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Thursday morning (local time that the second US presidential debate would be held virtually to “protect the health and safety of all involved”.
Minutes later in an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Mr Trump said the new virtual format was not acceptable to him.
“That’s not acceptable to us,” he said, adding he thought the virtual format would allow the moderator to cut him off.
Mr Trump said he would not attend the debate if he was contagious but that he thinks he is now well enough to hold campaign rallies.
“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate, that’s not what debating is all about,” he said.
“You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous and then they cut you off whenever they want.”
He also said he was feeling “really good” and called himself “a perfect physical specimen”.
Such rallies, particularly held indoors, have raised concern among public health exerts about spreading the virus.
Trump says he’s stopped taking most medication
Mr Trump said he has stopped taking most therapeutics for the virus, but was still taking steroids.
His campaign said the President would hold a rally instead of debating Mr Biden.
“The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without cancelling 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.”
Mr Biden told reporters on Thursday he would follow the recommendations of the debate commission and did not know what action he would take if Mr Trump refused to take part.
“We don’t know what the President’s going to do. He changes his mind every second,” Mr Biden said.
Mr Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said the former vice-president “looks forward to speaking directly to the American people”.
She then went on to attack Mr Trump’s leadership and said his “failed leadership on the coronavirus has thrown the strong economy he inherited into the worst downturn since the Great Depression.”
The Commission on Presidential Debates said the debate even in a virtual world would remain a town hall-style conversation and that voters and the moderator will ask the candidates questions from the original debate site in Miami.
Mr Biden, for his part, said he and Mr Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the President remains COVID positive.
He 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.”
Mr Trump was diagnosed with coronavirus a week ago but in a tweet on Tuesday said he looked forward to debating Mr Biden on stage in Miami, “It will be great!” he tweeted.