Trump refuses ‘virtual debate,’ says he won’t waste his time after commission’s change to ‘protect Biden’

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President Donald Trump said Thursday he won’t do a “virtual debate” with Democratic nominee Joe Biden after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the change, saying it would be a “waste” of time.

The president made the statement in an interview with Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo, his first since contracting COVID-19.

Moments earlier, the debate commission said that the next debate, which is set for Oct. 15, “will take the form of a town meeting,” but the president rejected that.

“The commission changed the debate style and that’s not acceptable to us,” Trump told Bartiromo. “I beat him in the first debate, I beat him easily.”

The president added that he believed he would “beat him in the second debate also.”

“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump said. “I’m not going to waste my time at a virtual debate.”

He noted further that he would not “sit at a computer” to engage in a debate, adding the thought of it is “ridiculous.”

“They’re trying to protect Biden,” the president noted further. “Everybody is.”

Meanwhile, the former vice president’s campaign appeared to accept the change following the debate commission’s announcement.

“Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people and comparing his plan for bringing the country together and building back better with Donald Trump’s failed leadership on the coronavirus that has thrown the strong economy he inherited into the worst downturn since the Great Depression,”  deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he was “looking forward” to his next debate with Biden.

“Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!! The Fake News only shows the Fake Polls,” he noted on Monday before he was discharged from Walter Reed Military Medical Center.

Also Monday, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said despite his COVID-19 diagnosis, “The president intends to debate.”

One reason why the president may be refusing to do a virtual debate, some have speculated, is due to the optics: It would put undue attention on the lingering coronavirus pandemic, which is continuing to spread.

In fact, in making the change, the debate commission emphasized that it is needed “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.” The commission added that the moderator will be in Miami along with the candidates who will nevertheless “participate from separate remote locations.”

Simone Sanders, an adviser to Biden, said Sunday she hoped that the president would be able to make the next debate.

“We are looking forward to the debate on Oct. 15 in Miami,” Sanders said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s a town hall and, as you know, Vice President Biden loves a good town hall.

“And we are hoping President Trump can participate. We’re hoping that he’s medically able to participate, and that is up to his doctors to clear him. But Joe Biden will be at that debate,” she added.

On Wednesday, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said that Trump had been “fever-free” for “over 24 hours,” indicating that he is continuing to recover from the virus.


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