Commission Cancels Second Presidential Debate

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland. (Olivier Douliery/Pool vi AP)

(CN) — The Commission on Presidential Debates cancelled the second debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Friday, following a refusal by the president to participate in a virtual debate.

Originally set for Oct. 15 in Miami, the commission changed the format Thursday from a town hall debate to a virtual one after the president tested positive for Covid-19 last week. Trump declined to attend, with his campaign saying the change was a move meant to help Biden. Trump instead said he will hold a series of rallies starting this weekend.

“There is no medical reason to stop the October 15 debate in Miami from proceeding as scheduled, since the President will be healthy and ready to debate,” Trump spokesman said in a statement Friday evening. “There’s nothing that says that President Trump and Joe Biden can’t debate together without the overlords at the commission having a say in the matter.  We would be glad to debate one-on-one without the commission’s interference.”

The Trump campaign offered to delay the debates, holding the second one on Oct. 22 and pushing the third one to Oct. 29. But the Biden camp rejected that proposal. Instead, Biden will participate in a town hall Q&A on Oct. 15 hosted by ABC News.

“We accepted the three dates — Sept. 29, Oct. 15, and Oct. 22 — in June. Trump chose today to pull out of the October 15th debate,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden spokeswoman said in a statement Thursday. “Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing. 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. That’s his choice.” 

In a brief statement released Friday night, the commission announced the cancellation of the debate, noting that each campaign had made alternate plans for that date.

“It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22,” the statement read.

Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chair of the commission, refused to consider an in-person debate, despite Trump’s insistence that he is not “contagious at all.”

“We’re talking about something that will happen in less than a week, if it had originally gone forward. Less than a week,” Fahrenkopf said in a radio interview. “And right now, as I understand it, at this point in time, there is no evidence whatsoever whether or not when the president tested negative.”

Trump has been secretive in sharing details of his diagnosis and the results of his latest coronavirus tests, if any. 

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