'I'm not going to waste my time': Trump backs out of next week's virtual presidential debate, Biden to hold ABC News town hall

ByAlex Meier WPVI logo
Friday, October 9, 2020
Trump, Biden to host separate events instead of virtual debate
After President Donald Trump said he's backing out of the next presidential debate for going "virtual," both candidates announced that they will host separate events instead.

WASHINGTON -- After President Donald Trump said he's backing out of the next presidential debate for going "virtual," both candidates announced that they will host separate events the day it was scheduled.

Democratic rival Joe Biden will attend a town hall with ABC News on Thursday, Oct. 15 from Philadelphia, which will be moderated by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Meanwhile, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh announced that Trump will join his program to host "the largest virtual rally in radio history" Friday. The president later confirmed this in a tweet.

This comes after the nonpartisan commission that organizes debates announced that next week's scheduled town hall would be held virtually in light of the president's COVID-19 diagnosis.

Both campaigns are pushing for the Commission on Presidential Debates to move the town hall-style debate to Thursday, Oct. 22.

The president's team also wants to push a third and final presidential debate to Thursday, Oct. 29.

The CPD announced Thursday that both candidates would be expected to attend the Oct. 15 debate from remote locations, while the moderator, CSPAN's Steve Scully, and undecided voters would gather in Miami, Florida, as originally planned.

SEE ALSO: 2020 debate schedule

Trump's campaign responded quickly to the announcement, saying he will not attend a virtual debate and planned instead to host a rally.

"I'm not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That is not what debating is all about," the president told Fox Business Thursday morning. "You sit behind a computer and do a debate, it's ridiculous."

The Trump campaign statement called the move "pathetic" and "a sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden."

The Biden camp responded later and said the former vice president will "find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly on October 15th" after Trump pulled out of next week's virtual town hall debate.

In a statement, the campaign said Trump "clearly does not want to face questions from the voters about his failures on COVID and the economy" asked the debate commission to push the town hall debate back a week "so that the President is not able to evade accountability."

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The debate change announcement comes days after Trump was hospitalized for COVID-19. The president was still contagious when he left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Monday.

On Thursday evening, the president's doctor said he fully anticipates Trump can make a "safe return to public engagements" on Saturday. The assessment from Dr. Sean Conley also said that "overall, he's responded extremely well to treatment, without evidence on examination of adverse therapeutic effects."

Biden, for his part, has said he and Trump "shouldn't have a debate" as long as the president remains COVID positive.

SEE ALSO: Mike Pence, Kamala Harris clash over COVID-19 in more civil debate

Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic challenger Kamala Harris traded barbs through plexiglass shields Wednesday night in a debate dominated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Before Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis, the CPD indicated that it would make changes to the debate format following a raucous first presidential showdown. The Sept. 29 presidential debate deteriorated into bitter taunts and near chaos, with Trump in particular repeatedly interrupting Biden and talking over the moderator, Chris Wallace.

Despite an unprecedented election year, this would not be the first time two presidential candidates are debating remotely. Sixty years ago, former president John F. Kennedy participated in 1960's third presidential debate from ABC studios in New York City, while Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon was at ABC studios in Los Angeles.

The next presidential debate is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 15. The CPD has not announced planned changes to the final debate on Thursday, Oct. 22.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this report suggested that a Biden-Trump "virtual" debate would be the first of its kind in American history.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.