Trump says he won't participate in virtual 2nd presidential debate

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Washington — The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday morning that the second debate between President Trump and Joe Biden will be held virtually to minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus, a change the president quickly dismissed as “not acceptable.”

“I heard that the commission a little while ago changed the debate style, and that’s not acceptable to us,” Mr. Trump said in a phone interview with Fox Business. “I’m not going to do a virtual debate … I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating’s all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate, it’s ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want.”

Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, confirmed the president’s decision, saying, “We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”

The nonpartisan debate commission said in a statement that the second debate, scheduled for October 15 in Miami, would “take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations.” The change was made “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate,” the commission said.

The president tested positive for the coronavirus just a week ago, and was experiencing symptoms as recently as Tuesday, according to the White House physician. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends those who test positive for the virus avoid being around others 10 days after their last positive test if symptoms subside. The White House doctor has not said whether the president continues to test positive.

Biden’s campaign said he would participate in a virtual debate, with deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield saying Biden “looks forward to speaking directly to the American people and comparing his plan for bringing the country together.” Biden said earlier in the week that he would be open to an in-person debate “if the scientists say that it’s safe and the distances are safe.”

The first debate between the two candidates last week was chaotic, featuring frequent interruptions by the president that prompted the debate commission to consider new rules allowing the moderator to enforce time limits. The second debate was set to be moderated by Steve Scully of C-SPAN.

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