‘Not acceptable to us’: Trump refuses to take part in virtual second debate with Biden

Donald Trump, here returning to the White House after being hospitalised, says he will not participate in a virtual debate next week (AP)
Donald Trump, here returning to the White House after being hospitalised, says he will not participate in a virtual debate next week (AP)

Donald Trump on Thursday said he will not participate in an online town hall with Democratic nominee Joe Biden after the body that oversees presidential debates announced it would hold a virtual debate next week due to the president’s coronavirus diagnosis, which has spread throughout his White House and campaign staffs.

“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” the president said. “No, I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. ... [Sitting] behind a computer is not what debating is all about.”

“They’re trying to protect Biden,” he said, contending a NBC town hall Mr Biden participated in with voters earlier this week was “meant for a child”.

As Mr Trump went on and on during a wide-ranging telephone interview with Maria Bartiromo, his campaign announced Mr Trump will skip the 15 October debate for one of his raucous campaign rallies.

“President Trump won the first debate despite a terrible and biased moderator in Chris Wallace, and everybody knows it. For the swamp creatures at the Presidential Debate Commission to now rush to Joe Biden’s defence by unilaterally cancelling an in-person debate is pathetic,” Bill Stepien, Mr Trump’s coronavirus-positive campaign manager said in a statement.

“That’s not what debates are about or how they’re done. Here are the facts: President Trump will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate, so there is no need for this unilateral declaration,” Mr Stepien said. “The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without cancelling a chance for voters to see both candidates go head to head. We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”

The president hinted at his new plan for next Thursday night during the Fox Business interview.

“I think I’m better. I would love to do a rally tonight,” he said. “I wanted to do one last night.”

Despite being hospitalised for parts of four days with what his doctors say was a case of coronavirus, the president yet again on Thursday morning downplayed its severity. He said he feels “great” and sounded energetic.

That could be a side-effect of a powerful cocktails of steroids and antibody drugs he was given at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre and then back at the executive mansion.

Even with 212,000 Americans dead from the virus and another 7.5 million cases, the president offered this eye-popping assessment of the disease: “You catch it, you get better, and then you're immune.”

Medical experts say otherwise, warning of longterm health complications for many even if they get over the coronavirus. But Mr Trump has ignored much scientific data during the outbreak.

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