UPDATED, 7:11 PM PT: The Commission on Presidential Debates is not reconsidering its announcement that the Oct. 15 town hall debate will be a virtual event, even though Donald Trump’s campaign is insisting that it be an in-person event.
The co-chair of the commission, Frank Fahrenkopf, told the Associated Press that their decision won’t be reversed.
Earlier, the Trump campaign said that the debate should be in-person. Campaign manager Bill Stepien attacked the commission. In a statement, he said, “It remains extremely suspect that the CPD announced the brand new virtual format at 7:30am ET today immediately after Vice President Mike Pence had just wiped the floor with Senator Kamala Harris.”
PREVIOUSLY: The next presidential debates are in jeopardy after Donald Trump’s campaign rejected plans for a virtual event on Oct. 15 and Joe Biden’s campaign scheduled a solo ABC News town hall that evening.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced early Thursday that a planned town hall debate next week will feature both candidates by remote, out of concerns of the coronavirus and of the president’s continued recovery. Trump quickly rejected that plan, and Biden proposed postponing the event a week later to Oct. 22, when the third presidential debate had been scheduled.
The ABC News town hall will be with chief anchor George Stephanopoulos. The event will be held in Philadelphia. The network hosted a town hall event with Trump last month.
What is unclear is if there will be another meet up between Trump and Biden at all. Trump’s campaign has proposed a new schedule for the two remaining debates — Oct. 22 and Oct. 29, but the Biden campaign has rejected that plan. A debate taking place just days before the Nov. 3 election poses risks for campaigns, as they will lack enough time to respond to a gaffe, slip up or lackluster performance.
PREVIOUSLY, 7:57 AM: Joe Biden’s campaign said that the next presidential debate should retain its town hall format and be moved to Oct. 22, after Donald Trump vowed not to participate in a virtual event.
On Thursday, the Commission on Presidential Debates said that the planned Oct. 15 event would be virtual, with each candidate participating via remote as moderator Steve Scully anchors with town hall participants from Miami. The change in format was triggered by concerns over Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis and whether he would be fully recovered by then.
On Fox Business, Trump said that he would not participate in a virtual event, which would be the second of three planned debates.
Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement that although Biden was willing to do a virtual event, they hope the debate commission “will move the Biden-Trump Town Hall to October 22nd, so that the President is not able to evade accountability.”
“The voters should have a chance to ask questions of both candidates, directly. Every Presidential candidate since 1992 has participated in such an event, and it would be a shame if Donald Trump was the first to refuse,” Bedingfield said.
There already was a debate scheduled for Oct. 22, in a traditional format and with Kristen Welker as moderator.
Donald Trump’s campaign indicated that it would do a debate on Oct. 22, but they want the third event to be rescheduled to Oct. 29, just five days before the election.
“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,” said Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who himself tested positive for the coronavirus.
Biden’s campaign, though, did not endorse such a plan. Ron Klain, a Biden adviser, wrote on Twitter, “The debate dates were set months ago by the debate commission, and locked in by the two campaigns. Just this morning, Donald Trump rejected the debate set for next week. He doesn’t get to set the calendar based on his ever changing whims.”
Bedingfield said, “Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing.” The latest that a presidential debate has been held was in 1980, when Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan met on Oct. 28. No other debate since then, Bedingfield noted, has been held later than Oct. 22.
“Donald Trump can show up, or he can decline again. That’s his choice,” she said.
Biden’s campaign said that in lieu of the Oct. 15 event not happening, he would still find an “appropriate place” to take questions from voters in his own town hall.