Trump-Biden presidential debate schedule now in limbo amid fight over format change
The presidential debate schedule was thrown into uncertainty on Thursday amid a fight between the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the second showdown would take place in a virtual setting as President Trump recovers from coronavirus.
Things unraveled Thursday after the commission released a morning statement saying that “the second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations.”
Shortly after that announcement, the president said he would not participate in a virtual format, calling it “ridiculous.”
The Biden campaign responded by seemingly acknowledging that the next debate – a town hall scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami – would not happen and suggested that the previously scheduled debate on Oct. 22 become a town hall forum.
But the Trump campaign said they still want two more debates — and that the president wants to face off against former Vice President Joe Biden twice more before voters hit the polls on Nov. 3. They proposed the debate originally scheduled for Oct. 15 be pushed to Oct. 22 – the date the final showdown was set to take place – and the final debate be pushed a week later, to Oct. 29. But the Biden campaign is pushing back saying the president cannot dictate the debate schedule.
The Trump campaign lashed out at the commission for saying the next debate would be virtual.
“The American people should not be deprived of the chance to see the two candidates for president debate face to face to more times just because the Commission on Presidential Debates wants to protect Joe Biden,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement.
Stepien called the “new virtual format” “extremely suspect,” praising Vice President Pence’s performance during Wednesday’s vice presidential debate against Biden running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, saying he “wiped the floor” with her, and that the commission “wanted to shift attention away from Pence’s complete victory.”
“As President Trump said, a virtual debate is a non-starter and would clearly be a gift to Biden because he would be relying on his teleprompter from his basement bunker,” Stepien said. “Voters should have the opportunity to directly question Biden’s 47-year failed record of leadership.”
He added: “We agree that this should happen on October 22, and accordingly, the third debate should then be shifted back one week to October 29.”
Stepien, in another shot at Biden and the commission, said “the CPD and the media cannot hide Joe Biden forever.”
“Americans deserve to hear directly from both presidential candidates on these dates, October 22 and 29,” Stepien said.
But Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield fired back, saying “Donald Trump doesn’t make the debate schedule; the Debate Commission does.”
“We accepted the three dates –Sept. 29, Oct. 15, and Oct. 22 – in June,” Bedingfield explained, adding that “Trump chose today to pull out of the October 15th debate,” referring to his comments early Thursday after the CPD’s announcement of the change. The president said he would not “waste” his “time” with a virtual debate.
“Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing,” Bedingfield said. “We look forward to participating in the final debate, scheduled for October 22, which already is tied for the latest debate date in 40 years.”
“Donald Trump can show up, or he can decline again,” she added. “That’s his choice.”
Meanwhile, Thursday afternoon, ABC News announced that it would host a town hall event on Oct. 15 moderated by George Stephanopoulos
“The primetime event will take place in Philadelphia where the former vice president will answer questions from voters,” ABC News tweeted.
Oct. 15 is the date when the second presidential debate was slated to be held before the back-and-forth Thursday.
Bedingfield, earlier in the day, suggested Trump did not want to participate in the Oct. 15 debate because it was a town hall format, saying that “voters should have a chance to ask questions of both candidates, directly.”
Bedingfield added that “every presidential candidate since 1992 has participated ins such an event, and it would be a shame if Donald Trump was the first to refuse.”
The CPD’s change to a virtual setting for the Oct. 15 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.
Trump, minutes after the CPD’s announcement, said he would not participate, calling a virtual debate “ridiculous.”
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump said on Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria.” “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.”
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.
Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, 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.”