The Commission on Presidential Debates has announced the upcoming October 15 debate between President Donald Trump and former vice-president Joe Biden will take place virtually. Each candidate will join the town hall from separate, remote locations. Town hall participants and moderator Steve Scully of C-SPAN will still convene in Miami, Florida. PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports that the Trump campaign has called the decision “ridiculous” and the result of a “biased” commission. “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” Trump quickly responded in a call to Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo Thursday morning, adding that in a virtual debate “they cut you off whenever they want.” The move comes as a growing number of White House staff, Donald Trump, Melania Trump, and several GOP members tested positive for COVID-19 after last week’s debate (and a number of mask-free rallies). Following the debate, widely regarded as a “shitshow,” the commission announced they were developing new “tools to maintain order,” apparently starting with distance. The debate between vice-presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Mike Pence, which took place just hours before the decision was announced, used two walls of plexiglass to separate Pence, who said he tested negative on Tuesday, from the California senator (but it couldn’t keep out a dangerous stunt activist, a fly).
Update, Thursday, October 8, at 8:30 p.m.: President Trump really does not want to virtually debate former vice-president Joe Biden. After clearly stating that he does not want to participate in a virtual debate and attempting to reschedule the final two, Donald Trump has gone old school and enlisted the aid of a doctor’s note that says he’s in good enough shape to attend an in-person debate although he is still in the midst of battling coronavirus. The White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, wrote that Trump is “stable” and “devoid” of symptoms and that the illness is “progressing” in a note to the press, per CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. The White House has declined to say when Trump last tested negative. On Thursday night, Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien released a statement seconding the doctor’s note. “President Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, says the President will be medically cleared for ‘safe return to public engagements’ by Saturday, five full days before the originally scheduled debate in Miami on October 15,” said Stepien in a release obtained by CBS. “There is therefore no medical reason why the Commission on Presidential Debates should shift the debate to a virtual setting, postpone it, or other wise alter it in any way.” Meanwhile, the Biden campaign is planning a solo town hall in Philadelphia on October 15. Time will tell whether Trump’s doctor’s note will be more effective than the doctor’s note you forged in middle school to get out of running the mile in gym class.