President Donald Trump vowed Thursday not to participate in next week’s debate with Democrat nominee Joe Biden after organizers announced it would take place virtually because of the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
“The commission changed the debate style and that’s not acceptable to us,” Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on “Mornings With Maria” shortly after the debate change was announced.
“I beat him in the first debate, I beat him easily,” adding that he had expected to “beat him in the second debate also.”
Biden “wouldn’t answer questions and he had the protection of [moderator] Chris Wallace all night long” at the first debate, Trump went on. “I thought Chris Wallace was a disaster.”
Next week’s debate is scheduled to be moderated by C-SPAN’s Steve Scully, whom Trump accused Thursday of being a “never-Trumper.”
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump added. “I’m not going to waste my time at a virtual debate.” He rejected the idea that he would “sit at a computer” to conduct a debate, calling it “ridiculous.”
Trump said debate organizers did not check with him before announcing Thursday that next week’s debate would be held remotely. The idea is “not acceptable to us,” he said.
“They are trying to protect Biden, everybody is,” Trump added, “like in Monday night’s town hall with NBC’s Lester Holt, as the questions there were “meant for a child” rather than a “grown person.”
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien quickly announced that Trump would appear at a rally on the night of the debate.
Biden, speaking to reporters Thursday before traveling to Arizona, said he wasn’t sure how ot respond to Trump’s declaration.
“We don’t know what the president is going to do. He changes his mind every second,” said Biden, who had promised to participate.
“Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people,” deputy Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.
The announcement from the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates cited a need “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.” The candidates will “participate from separate remote locations” while the participants and moderator remain in Miami, it said.
The announcement came a week before Biden and Trump were scheduled to face off in the town hall-style debate in Miami.
Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus a week ago, but in a Tuesday tweet said he looked forward to debating Biden on stage in Miami, “It will be great!” he tweeted.
Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID-19 positive.
Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.”
Trump fell ill with the virus last Thursday, just 48 hours after debating Biden in person for the first time in Cleveland. While the two candidates remained a dozen feet apart during the debate, Trump’s infection sparked health concerns for Biden and sent him to undergo multiple COVID-19 tests before returning to the campaign trail.
Trump was still contagious with the virus when he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, but his doctors have not provided any detailed update on his status. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can be contagious for as many as — and should isolate for at least — 10 days.
It would not be the first debate in which the candidates are not in the same room. In 1960, the third presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy was broadcast with the two candidates on opposite coasts.