Presidential Debates Commission Rejects Trump's Request To Reschedule, Cancels Second Debate

The second planned debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has been officially cancelled one day after Trump said he would not participate when the debate was moved to a virtual format.

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced Friday evening that they were calling the debate off, despite the Trump campaign pressuring them to reschedule and reinstate the in-person debate amid health concerns prompted by the president testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

"On October 8, CPD announced that for the health and safety of all involved, the second presidential debate, scheduled for October 15 in Miami, would be conducted virtually," the commission said in a statement. "The campaigns of the two candidates who qualified for participation in the debate made a series of statements concerning their respective positions regarding their willingness to participate in a virtual debate on October 15, and each now has announced alternate plans for that date."

"It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22," the statement continued.

CPD said that both candidates have agreed to participate in the final scheduled debate, set to take place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. They said that debate would happen "in accordance with all required testing, masking, social distancing and other protocols."

The Trump campaign has reacted to CPD decisions with anger, accusing them of trying to "protect" Biden, although polls suggest that most Americans believe Biden won the first debate. The campaign has also suggested shifting the debate schedule one week forward, with the final debate occurring only days before the election.

Trump and Biden at Debate
President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden face off at their debate in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. JIM WATSON,SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

"[There is] no reason there shouldn't be the three total presidential debates as Joe Biden had originally agreed," Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign's communications director, said in a statement. "We have suggested using October 22 and October 29 to hold the final two debates. It's time for the biased commission to stop protecting Biden and preventing voters from hearing from the two candidates for president."

The Biden campaign rejected the proposal to hold the debates later, with deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield saying in a statement that the former vice president would take part in the final debate on September 22 and that "Trump's erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing."

Murtaugh's statement insisted that there is "nothing that says" the candidates can't debate "without the overlords at the commission having a say in the matter." During a Thursday interview on Fox News, Trump suggested that some of his favorite pundits from the channel could moderate a debate, a suggestion the Biden campaign is unlikely to agree to.

Despite suggestions from Trump and his campaign that it would be safe for the president to participate in an in-person debate without infecting others, that is not currently clear. The White House has not said when, or if, the president has recently tested negative for the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that COVID-19 patients remain isolated for 10 days and until they have gone 24 hours without a fever unaided by fever-reducing medication. Other experts have suggested that patients could remain contagious for 10-14 days after symptoms subside.

Newsweek reached out to the Trump and Biden campaigns for comment.