President Trump Says He Will Skip Next Debate Since It’s Now A Virtual Format

( If President Donald Trump sticks to his words, there won’t be a second presidential debate.

On Thursday, Trump said he wouldn’t participate in the next debate, originally scheduled for October 15 in Miami, since it will now be held virtually. The president called the virtual debate a “joke” that was being done “to protect Biden.”

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

Earlier Thursday, the Commission on Presidential Debates said the next debate would be going remote to “protect the health and safety of all involved.” With Trump being diagnosed with coronavirus last week and spending a few days in the hospital, the commission is preaching caution.

The commission said its plan was to have the town hall participants, the moderate as well as both candidates located in Miami, but at “separate remote locations” so that they would not come in contact with each other.

Earlier in the week, Democratic candidate Joe Biden said he didn’t believe the debate should go on as planned if the president still tested positive for COVID-19 and was potentially contagious. The Biden campaign said they still planned to participate in all debates, even if they were changed to virtual formats.

Now, though, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.

Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager who last week also tested positive for COVID-19, said the president would hold a rally in lieu of participating in Miami’s virtual debate. He said:

“President Trump will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate, so there is no need for this unilateral declaration.”

As of now, though, the White House hasn’t released information on when Trump last tested negative for coronavirus.

On Twitter, Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for Biden, retorted by writing:

“Unsurprisingly, one candidate is leading while the other is whining. In his weakness he’s proving that he only cares about himself — not even his supporters.”

The head of the commission, Frank Fahrenkopf, said the commission didn’t consult with the two campaigns on their decision, but did notify them “just before” the decision was announced publicly. He also said the decision is “supported by the Cleveland Clinic,” which is the health adviser to the commission.

Responding to Trump’s refusal to participate in the debate, Fahrenkopf said:

“There is no law requiring any presidential candidate to debate. In fact, in 1980, Jimmy Carter, president of the United States, refused to participate in the first debate, but he did participate in the second debate. So it is up to every candidate to decide whether they want to debate or not.”

For now, it doesn’t seem like Trump will participate in future debates unless they are held in traditional in-person settings. But, it’s unlikely the commission or the Biden campaign would agree to going back to that format without multiple negative COVID-19 tests from Trump beforehand.

Even if the Trump campaign does produce the negative results, there likely would be extra protections in place at the next presidential debate, such as the plexiglass barriers that were installed for Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate.