Despite assurances from his campaign over the weekend that he will be present for the next presidential debate on October 15th, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Wednesday that he could skip the contest if President Donald Trump is still suffering from COVID-19.
“Well, I think if he still has COVID, we shouldn’t have a debate,” Biden told media during a stop in Maryland. “I think we’re gonna have to follow very strict guidelines. Too many people have been infected and it’s a very serious problem.”
“And so I’ll be guided by the guidelines of the Cleveland Clinic, and what the docs say is the right thing to do — if and when he shows up for debate,” Biden continued.
Echoing claims he made during a Monday night NBC News town hall suggesting that Trump contracted the virus because he is not serious about following disease prevention protocol, Biden added, “I’m looking forward to being able to debate him. But I just hope all the protocols are followed, what’s necessary at the time.”
At the town hall, Biden was clear: “Anybody who contracts the virus by essentially saying, ‘masks don’t matter, social distancing doesn’t matter,’ I think is responsible for what happens to them.”
Trump, for his part, is already committed to debating the former vice president next week in Miami, Florida, though his doctors, including White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, have yet to speak on the issue. As The Daily Wire reported earlier this week, Trump said he was “feeling great” in a Twitter missive, and that he was “looking forward to the debate on the evening of Thursday, October 15th in Miami. It will be great!”
Conley said only that the president had met or exceeded the criteria for discharge from Walter Reed Medical Center. On Wednesday morning, the White House noted that Trump is no longer reporting symptoms of the novel coronavirus, but that is the president’s own analysis of his health, not that of his doctors.
Over the weekend, Biden’s spokesperson, Symone Sanders, said that Biden intends to show up for the debate next week, but Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, told reporters Wednesday that Trump would have to “prove” that he is not contagious before the town hall debate can take place.
“It is a town hall format. There will be real people. There will be citizens there in attendance asking questions. So, the obligation is on Donald Trump to prove that he is not contagious. The obligation is on him to meet the standards laid out by the Cleveland Clinic, laid out by the presidential commission on debates. And we have every expectation that he’ll do that. And when he does, we’re looking forward to being there to debate,” Bedingfield said on Good Morning America.
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