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Presidential Debate Commission Will NOT Reconsider Decision To Make Second Debate Virtual
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the first U.S. presidential debate hosted by Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. Trump and Biden kick off their first debate with contentious topics like the Supreme Court and the coronavirus pandemic suddenly joined by yet another potentially explosive question -- whether the president ducked paying his taxes.
Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates said late on Thursday evening that it will not reconsider its decision to make the second presidential debate a virtual debate despite President Donald Trump’s opposition to the move.

“Frank Fahrenkopf told The Associated Press late Thursday that the nonpartisan group’s decision was not going to be reversed. That means the second debate is probably not going to happen at all,” The Associated Press reported. “The commission decided to make the Oct. 15 debate virtual after Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. Fahrenkopf says the group wanted to ‘protect the health and safety of all involved’ and that the decision was guided by the advice of the Cleveland Clinic, its heath partner for the 2020 debates.”

Trump Campaign Manager Bill Stepien released a statement late on Thursday evening stating that there was no reason for the commission to not proceed as originally planned.

“President Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, says the President will be medically cleared for ‘safe return to public engagements’ by Saturday, five full days before the originally scheduled debate in Miami on October 15,” Stepien said. “There is therefore no medical reason why the Commission on Presidential Debates should shift the debate to a virtual setting, postpone it, or otherwise alter it in any way.”

“CPD Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf admits that they consulted with no one before unilaterally changing the format of a debate, well in advance of any knowledge of what the President’s condition would be on debate night,” Stepien continued. “The commission must stop protecting Joe Biden from this in-person debate and allow the event to proceed as it was agreed to months ago. The American people can see through this obvious attempt to shield Biden from another shellacking like he got two weeks ago in Cleveland and the CPD must reverse course and let the debate proceed.”

Trump responded the news early this morning during a Fox News interview, saying, “That’s not acceptable to us.”

“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump said. “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate. It’s ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want. I have a host, who I always thought was a nice guy, but I see he’s a never-Trumper, you know, came out that he’s a never-Trumper. And we do have some of them, Maria, believe it or not, because they don’t like to win.”

Kate Bedingfield, a Biden deputy campaign manager, said earlier in the day, “Donald Trump doesn’t make the debate schedule; the debate commission does. Trump chose today to pull out of the Oct. 15 debate. Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing.”

This report has been updated to include additional information.

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