Shortly after refusing to participate in a virtual event, the Trump campaign has requested that the Commission on Presidential Debates delay the next two contests by one week so that they can be conducted in person.
"As President Trump said, a virtual debate is a non-starter and would clearly be a gift to Biden because he would be relying on his teleprompter from his basement bunker," Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement Thursday.
"Voters should have the opportunity to directly question Biden's 47-year failed record of leadership. We agree that this should happen on Oct. 22, and accordingly, the third debate should then be shifted back one week to Oct. 29," he added. "The CPD and the media cannot hide Joe Biden forever. Americans deserve to hear directly from both presidential candidates on these dates, October 22 and 29."
According to The Hill, the debates commission normally negotiates details with both presidential campaigns to determine the format and rules of the events. But the Trump campaign insists that they were not included in conversations ahead of the commission's announcement that next week's debate would be virtual as President Trump recovers from the coronavirus.
Trump blasted the move in an interview with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo Thursday morning, accusing the commission of "trying to protect" former Vice President Biden.
"I'm not going to waste my time at a virtual debate," he added. "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."
Stepien also reiterated the point in his statement, saying, "The American people should not be deprived of the chance to see the two candidates for president debate face to face two more times just because the Commission on Presidential Debates wants to protect Joe Biden."
The Biden campaign agreed on Thursday to participate in the virtual contest. After hearing of Trump's refusal, the campaign decided to run a town hall that night instead.
"Joe Biden was prepared to accept the CPD's proposal for a virtual Town Hall, but the President has refused, as Donald Trump clearly does not want to face questions from the voters about his failures on COVID and the economy," deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement. "As a result, Joe Biden will find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly on Oct. 15th, as he has done on several occasions in recent weeks."
Bedingfield indicated that the campaign would be willing to reschedule the second debate one week later on Oct. 22, but reportedly rejected the Trump campaign's proposal to move the third debate to Oct. 29.
"Given the President's refusal to participate on Oct. 15th, we hope the Debate Commission will move the Biden-Trump Town Hall to October 22nd, so that the President is not able to evade accountability," she said.
Biden, who had previously shown a willingness to participate in an in-person debate on Oct. 15 if it was cleared by health experts, said Tuesday that if Trump were still testing positive by then, the debate should be cancelled.
Trump tested positive for COVID-19 early Friday morning, which would make it 14 days from the time he revealed his diagnosis to the date of the second debate. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines state that people who test positive and experience mild symptoms can again be around others 10 days after symptoms first appeared as long as they have gone 24 hours without a fever and their other symptoms are improving.