While being interview this morning by Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, President Donald J. Trump said he would not participate in a virtually held debate.
The president, who is currently being treated for coronavirus, was informed of the decision by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates and immediately balked.
“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” he told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo in an interview on Thursday morning. He said a virtual showing was “not acceptable.”
The commission announced a change in plans for the Oct. 15 debate between the president and Democratic nominee, Vice-President Joe Biden, to “protect the health and safety of all involved.”
Last week, Trump tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was hospitalized for three days. As of this morning, thirty-four people in his administration and White House journalists also tested positive.
“The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations,” the commission said, with Steve Scully of C-SPAN still serving as moderator from a location in Miami where town-hall participants would also be present.
During the first contest between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, the candidates stood far apart in an act of social distancing. While most attendees wore masks, moderator Chris Wallace said the president’s family did not.
During last night’s vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, plexiglass barriers were placed between the two candidates, who sat 12 feet apart.
The idea of a remote debate is not unheard of. During the third presidential debate in 1960, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy participated from opposite coasts.
After a disastrous first showing in which he consistently broke the agreed upon rules, Trump has been slipping in the polls. Skipping a debate at this point could be risky for his numbers. In 1980, incumbent Jimmy Carter refused to debate challenger Ronald Regan and the move cost him.