President Donald Trump told Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo on Thursday that he will not be participating in the next presidential debate if it's held in a virtual format. The news came just minutes after the Commission on Presidential Debates stated that the showdown will be virtual, scheduled for October 15, according to Fox News.
Trump has decided to opt out of the debate after news came that it would be virtual, saying that "the commission changed the debate style and that's not acceptable to us," adding that "I beat him in the first debate, I beat him easily."
The president noted that he expected to "beat him [Biden] in the second debate also."
"I'm not going to do a virtual debate," Trump said. "I’m not going to waste my time at a virtual debate." The president said that the idea of sitting at a computer to debate someone for the highest position in the land is "ridiculous."
"They're trying to protect Biden," Trump said. "Everybody is."
The Biden campaign appeared to accept the terms of the new debate format, with Kate Bedingfield—the deputy campaign manager—saying:
"Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people and comparing his plan for bringing the country together and building back better with Donald Trump's failed leadership on the coronavirus that has thrown the strong economy he inherited into the worst downturn since the Great Depression."
Though Trump's announcement that he had tested positive for COVID-19 threw the future of the presidential debates in doubt, the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris fired off as planned on Wednesday night.
Fox News reported that Steve Scully of C-SPAN is still set to moderate the second presidential debate from Miami.
Shortly after the president returned to the White House, where he continued to be treated for the novel coronavirus, his campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh stated that the president intended to take part in the debates.
"The president intends to debate," Murtaugh shared with Fox News.
Biden's senior campaign adviser Symone Sanders said that the former vice president was "looking forward" to the Oct. 15 town-hall style debate and hoped that Trump would be able to take part.
"We are looking forward to the debate on Oct. 15 in Miami," Sanders said, adding that "it’s a town hall and, as you know, Vice President Biden loves a good town hall."
Sanders concluded: "And we are hoping President Trump can participate. We're hoping that he's medically able to participate, and that is up to his doctors to clear him. But Joe Biden will be at that debate."
When concerns were raised about Vice President Mike Pence's health, plexiglass shields were installed around the debaters in Salt Lake City, the debate format was not changed to virtual.