October 8, 2020
President Trump Says He Won't 'Waste My Time' Participating In Virtual Debate

President Donald Trump said Thursday he will not "waste [his] time" participating in the second presidential debate after the committee that sponsors it announced it will be virtual.

As CNN reported, the October 15 contest had been scheduled to take place town hall-style at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. However, following the president's COVID-19 diagnosis last week, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) reworked the entire format, announcing it will be held entirely virtually.

The CPD said it notified both campaigns of the change shortly after making the decision.

"The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations," the organization said in a statement.

Speaking to Fox Business, Trump said he will have no part of it.

"I am not going to do a virtual debate. I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate," he said.

Further, he noted such a format would mean he would have to "sit behind a computer" and that the moderator could "cut you off whenever they want."

Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, accused the committee of "unilaterally canceling" the in-person contest and said the president will instead hold a campaign rally that day.

Frank Fahrenkopf, head of the CPD, noted there is no law requiring a candidate for president to participate in a debate and pointed to historical precedent. During the 1980 election, he noted, then-president Jimmy Carter skipped the first debate of that year's election cycle. He did, however, appear in subsequent debates.

Donald Trump at the White House.
Getty Images | Win McNamee

Further, there is historical precedent for holding such an event "virtually," in a manner of speaking. During the 1960 election, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy participated in the third debate while both men were in different locations. A split screen allowed television viewers to watch both candidates at the same time.

Trump's adversary, Joe Biden, said he would agree to the virtual structure shortly after his campaign was contacted about the change of plans, according to The New York Times.

Biden had previously said that if Trump was still sick with COVID-19, there shouldn't be a debate. He also promised to abide by recommendations of the Cleveland Clinic, the debate's medical advisory board, regarding how the contest would be conducted.

A third debate is still tentatively on the schedule for October 22. It is scheduled to take place at Belmont University in Nashville, with Kristen Welker of NBC News as the moderator.