Updated Oct 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump says he won't take part in virtual debate

Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images

President Trump, who continues to battle a coronavirus infection, told Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo on Thursday that he will not take part in a virtual second presidential debate, with his campaign later saying he would do two in person debates later on this month.

What he's saying: "I'm not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. It’s not what debating is all about. ... It’s ridiculous," the president said.

  • Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who also tested positive for coronavirus, said in a statement that the campaign will "pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead."
  • Stepien also claimed without evidence that Trump "will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate," which has never been publicly confirmed by the president's doctors.
  • Later in the day, Stepien again called the decision to move to a virtual format "extremely suspect," but said Trump would be willing to push each debate by a week to Oct. 22 and Oct. 29.

Worth noting: The CDC states that a person can be contagious for up to 10 days after coronavirus symptoms resolve.

  • Neither the White House nor Trump's doctors have provided information about the timing of the president's last negative test.

The state of play: The Commission on Presidential Debates announced earlier this morning that Trump and Joe Biden will appear at next week's second presidential debate from "separate remote locations."

  • The debate is set to take place roughly two weeks after Trump's initial coronavirus diagnosis.
  • Both candidates will take part from still-unannounced separate locations, while moderator Steve Scully and town hall participants will be in Miami.

The other side: Biden's campaign eventually indicated that he would skip the debate as well, adding the former vice president would instead "find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly."

  • Biden previously told reporters on Thursday that it was too soon to say whether he'd participate in a debate if Trump was a no-show.
  • CPD Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf told NBC's Peter Alexander: "No presidential candidate is required to debate. Jimmy Carter refused to debate during the first debate in 1980. It is up to the individual candidate."

The big picture: Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris were separated by plexiglass at Wednesday's vice presidential debate, but Pence had repeatedly tested negative for coronavirus in the days leading up to the event.

  • Both Pence and Harris were separated by 13 feet — an increase from a planned seven feet — and a mask mandate was strictly enforced in the building after Trump family members and aides flouted the rule at the first debate.
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