Donald Trump Called a Coward by Critics for Skipping Virtual Presidential Debate

President Donald Trump has said he won't attend the second presidential debate on October 15 now that it will be a virtual event. On social media, many of the president's critics reacted by suggesting he was a "coward."

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) made the decision to "protect the health and safety of all", according to a statement on Thursday, and there was plenty of criticism of the move from Trump's supporters.

After the first debate on September 30 produced jokes, memes and critical commentary, some Twitter users suggested that the president was trying to avoid a repeat.

"The score is Biden/Harris:2, Trump/Pence: 0. The next debate is now going to be virtual, but Trump is a baby and won't do it, so the final score looks like it will stay 2:0," tweeted veteran Star Trek actor George Takei.

"Donald Trump is a coward," said CNN commentator Keith Boykin. "This is the first time in modern history when a sitting president has refused to participate in a presidential debate."

"BREAKING: Trump pulls out of second debate, because Trump is a coward," tweeted Scott Dworkin, co-founder of the Democratic Coalition, a super PAC opposed to the president.

Senator Tim Kaine, who was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2016, also claimed the president was afraid to debate former VP Joe Biden next week.

"I want to see a debate with an empty Zoom screen where Trump should have been. Coward," the Virginia senator tweeted.

Kaine wasn't alone in wanting Biden to participate in the debate on his own. Laurence Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard Law School and a Trump critic, made the same point.

"@JoeBiden should show up for the virtual debate even if Trump is a no-show. Free air time. Why not?" he wrote, tagging the Democrat.

Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, a conservative commentator for CNN and guest co-host on ABC's The View, cited Trump's performance in the first debate and urged Biden to take part.

"Trump refusing to participate in virtual debate. First debate was a disaster for him. Undecided voters described him as 'crackhead'. That was BEFORE taking steroids or whatever doctors just pumped into him. He's running like a scared chicken. And it's disrespectful to voters," she tweeted.

The president has been on steroid therapy since October 4.

"If Trump doesn't want to participate in debate, fine. Give@JoeBiden the whole damn 90 minutes of prime time and let him answer voters' questions...without interruption, for a change."

However, there was also criticism of the CPD. Conservative political commentator and Washington Post columnist Hugh Hewitt accused the commission of bias.

"That the #NeverTrump Debate Commission sucker-punched Team Trump is shocking," Hewitt wrote. "It has no standing in law. It is supposed to be a half-way house for the parties to meet in and agree on debate formats. It's diseased and drunk on power, and obviously anti-@realDonaldTrump."

Richard Grenell, a Republican who served as ambassador to Germany between 2018 and 2020, also took aim at the CPD and suggested its decision was informed by Wednesday's vice presidential debate.

"Pence crushes Kamala and the debate Commission immediately announces the next debate must be virtual," Grenell said. "The American people see what the DC insiders are doing - they want Biden to win."

Trump Looks Out from the Truman Balcony
US President Donald Trump looks out from the Truman Balcony upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center, where he underwent treatment for Covid-19, in Washington, DC, on October 5, 2020. Trump has said he will skip the second debate. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images