Biden pushes for town hall format for final debate, after Trump says he’ll skip ‘virtual’ showdown
The Biden campaign on Thursday seemingly acknowledged that the second presidential debate slated for Oct. 15 will not take place after the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) changed the forum to a virtual setting and President Trump said he would not “waste” his “time” participating.
The second presidential debate was expected to be in a town hall format. In a new statement, the Biden campaign urged the commission to move the town hall debate to the third and final showdown.
Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield urged the CPD to use that format for the final presidential debate, which is set for Oct. 22 “so that the president is not able to evade accountability.”
“Joe Biden was prepared to accept the CPD’s proposal for a virtual Town Hall, but the president has refused, as Donald Trump clearly does not want to face questions from he voters about his failures on COVID and the economy,” Bedingfield said in a statement, adding that former Vice President Biden will instead “find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly on October 15, as he has done on several occasions in recent weeks.”
“Given the President’s refusal to participate on October 15th, we hope the Debate Commission will move the Biden-Trump Town Hall to October 22nd, so that the President is not able to evade accountability,” Bedingfield said. “The voters should have a chance to ask questions of both candidates, directly.”
Bedingfield added that “every presidential candidate since 1992 has participated in such an event, and it would be a shame if Donald Trump was the first to refuse.”
Bedingfield’s comments come after the CPD announced early Thursday that “the second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations.” Steve Scully of C-SPAN is still set to moderate the second presidential debate from Miami.
The change to a virtual setting comes less than a week after the president tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The president continues to recover from COVID-19 at the White House.
But the president, minutes after the CPD’s announcement, said he would not participate, calling a virtual debate “ridiculous.”
“The commission changed the debate style and that’s not acceptable to us,” Trump said on “Mornings with Maria.” “I beat him in the first debate, I beat him easily.”
The president added that he expected to “beat him in the second debate also.”
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump went on. “I’m not going to waste my time at a virtual debate.”
Meanwhile, Biden responded to Trump’s claims while talking to reporters in Delaware on Thursday.
“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. “I’m going to follow the commission recommendations.”
But during his interview on Thursday, the president said he wasn’t going to “sit at a computer” to debate, calling it “ridiculous.”
“They’re trying to protect Biden,” Trump said. “Everybody is.”
Moments later, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said the CPD was rushing to Biden’s “defense by unilaterally canceling an in-person debate,” calling it “pathetic.”
“That’s not what debates are about or how they’re done,” Stepien said. “Here are the facts: President Trump will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate, so there is no need for this unilateral declaration. The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without canceling a chance for voters to see both candidates go head to head.”
He added: “We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”
The debate format changes come less than a week after the president announced he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the novel coronavirus. That announcement threw the status of all future 2020 debates in doubt, though the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris went on as planned Wednesday night, with on-stage dividers between the candidates after both had tested negative for the coronavirus.
Trump was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday.
Since Trump’s announcement of his positive coronavirus test, numerous members of his White House inner circle and his reelection campaign have come down with the contagion.
Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien also tested positive for COVID-19 and is working remotely. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced Monday that she had tested positive for COVID-19, in addition to other White House staff who have tested positive, including senior adviser Hope Hicks, Stephen Miller and director of Oval Office operations Nick Luna.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said that the president has been “fever-free” for four days and has not had any symptoms of the novel coronavirus for “over 24 hours.”
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser and Pat Ward contributed to this report.