The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has canceled the debate planned for next Thursday, after one day earlier announcing the debate would be virtual.
The face-off planned between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden was moved to a virtual setting after last Friday the president announced he’d contracted coronavirus.
Trump promptly announced he wouldn’t participate in the virtual format, calling it a “waste of time.”
“It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22,” the CPD said in a statement.
Both candidates have agreed to participate at that debate in-person at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., the commission said. Kristen Welker of NBC News will moderate the matchup.
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo. “I’m not going to waste my time at a virtual debate.”
“They’re trying to protect Biden,” Trump added. “Everybody is.”
His campaign asked for the two remaining debates to be pushed back. Biden’s campaign, however, objected to changing the dates and approved of the virtual format.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said the CPD was rushing to Biden’s “defense by unilaterally canceling an in-person debate,” calling it “pathetic.”
“That’s not what debates are about or how they’re done,” Stepien said. “Here are the facts: President Trump will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate, so there is no need for this unilateral declaration. The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without canceling a chance for voters to see both candidates go head to head.”
He added: “We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”
Earlier Friday the White House confirmed Trump would hold his first in-person event on Saturday. White House physician Dr. Sean Conley sent out a memorandum on Thursday stating that Trump will be able to return to public engagements this weekend.
The event on “law and order” will be held at the White House South Lawn, White House sources familiar with plans said. The gathering will be held in conjunction with a previously planned event with conservative activist Candace Owens’ group “Blexit,” which urges black voters to leave the Democrat Party, ABC News reported.
Noting that it will be 10 days since Trump was first diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, Conley anticipated that Trump can return to his usual schedule by Saturday.
“Today the President has completed his course of therapy for COVID-19 as prescribed by his team of physicians,” Conley said in his memo.
“Saturday will be day 10 since Thursday’s diagnosis, and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the President’s safe return to public engagements at that time,” he added.
Trump adviser Stephen Miller announced that he’d tested positive for coronavirus Tuesday, following White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s announcement she had contracted the virus on Monday.
Other White House staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 at this point include senior adviser Hope Hicks and director of Oval Office operations Nick Luna. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien also tested positive for COVID-19.
Former counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway has also tested positive and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who participated in debate prep with the president recently, did too and was admitted to the hospital over the weekend.