Oct. 8, 2020, 9:14 a.m. EDT

Trump says he won’t debate Biden next week in virtual format

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By Steve Goldstein and Greg Robb

President Donald Trump on Thursday said that changes announced Thursday morning by the Commission on Presidential Debates are unacceptable and that he will not participate in the second debate.

The commission announced earlier that the debate would be virtual.

The commission’s announcement came after Trump was hospitalized for COVID-19 and his challenger, Vice President Joe Biden, said he didn’t want to participate in a debate in person while Trump remains potentially contagious.

The commission said the decision was made “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.”

Minutes later, in an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump rejected the changes and said he had only learned about them just before they were announced.

“I’m not going to waste my time in a virtual debate that’s not what debating is about. You sit behind a computer and do it. And then they cut you off whenever they want,” Trump said.

The second debate was set to be in a town hall format in Miami on Thursday, Oct. 15, moderated by C-SPAN’s Steve Scully. The candidates would have participated from separate remote locations under the new format announced Thursday.

There is precedent for a virtual debate dating back 60 years to the dawn of mass-media campaigns. In 1960, the third debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon was held remotely. Kennedy debated from a television studio in New York whil; Nixon appeared from Los Angeles, according to the New York Times .

In a statement, Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager  said the president would participate in a rally instead.

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