US Presidential elections 2020 campaign's final debates between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden were thrown into uncertainty Thursday as the rival camps offered dueling proposals for the remaining faceoffs that have been upended by the president’s coronavirus infection. The chair of the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates told The Associated Press that the final debate, scheduled for Oct. 22, was still slated to go on with both candidates present as planned. But next Thursday’s debate seemed to be gone, after the Trump team objected to the commission’s format change.
The whipsaw day began with an announcement from the commission that the town hall-style affair set for October 15 in Miami would be held virtually. The commission cited health concerns following Trump’s infection as the reason for the change.
Trump, who is eager to return to the campaign trail despite uncertainty about his health, said he wouldn’t participate if the debate wasn’t in person. Biden’s campaign then suggested the event be delayed a week until October 22, which is when the third and final debate was already scheduled.
Original schedule of US presidential debates before Trump's coronavirus infection
September 29: First presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio
October 7: Vice presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah
October 15: Second presidential debate between Trump-Biden that was scheduled to take place before Trump was down with coronavirus. The debate was to take place at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida. Later it was announced that the event will be virtual and later cancelled after Trump pulled out saying it was useless to carry out the presidential debate and Biden committed to a different town hall on ABC.
October 22: Third and final presidential debate between Trump-Biden at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Next, Trump countered again, agreeing to a debate on October 22 — but only if face to face — and asking that a third contest be added on October 29, just before the election. But Biden’s advisers rejected squaring off that late in the campaign.
After the release late Thursday of a letter from Trump doctor Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley that the president had “completed his course of therapy” and could resume campaigning this weekend, the Trump campaign called on the commission to hold next week’s debate in person as originally scheduled.
"There is, therefore, no medical reason why the Commission on Presidential Debates should shift the debate to a virtual setting, postpone it, or otherwise alter it in any way,” said Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien.
But commission chair Frank Fahrenkopf said late Thursday that the decision to hold the debate virtually, guided by its medical advisers at the Cleveland Clinic, was not going to be reversed.
The commission said it made the announcement in order to “protect the health and safety of all involved,” including the everyday citizens invited to ask questions of the candidates.
The debate commission, which has the unenviable task of finding common ground between the competing campaigns, already came under scrutiny after the first debate between Trump and Biden deteriorated, with the president frequently interrupting his opponent and the moderator unable to take control.
(With inputs from AP)