The US Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the second scheduled face-off between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden has been cancelled for good, with no replacement date.
“It’s now apparent there will be no debate on October 15, and the CDP will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22,” the commission said on Friday.
The event was called off after Trump refused to participate in a virtual debate, which the CPD proposed amid concerns that he still might be contagious after his Covid-19 diagnosis last week.
Responding to the announcement, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh suggested that the candidates should sideline the CPD “overlords” and instead debate “one-on-one,” without what he called “the interference” of the commission.
Trump insisted that he and Biden should spar in person, with his campaign suggesting that the debate might be shifted to a later date. On Thursday, the Trump campaign argued that the debate can take place on October 22 [the date earlier reserved for the third presidential bout], and the third one can be moved to October 29.
Biden’s campaign manager Kate Bedingfield later hinted that the former VP was open to rescheduling the town hall for October 22, so that Trump “is not able to evade accountability.”
The initial decision by the commission to shift the debate online seemed to have blindsided the participants, with Trump saying that the CPD failed to reach out to his campaign before the announcement.
Murtaugh argued at the time that the move favored Biden. “This was a decision they made without consultation with our campaign but it’s in line with their history of doing everything they can to protect Joe Biden,” he said.
The Trump campaign argued that since the president was given a clean bill of health by his physician to resume public engagements on Saturday, there was “no medical reason” to move the debate online.
The allegations of anti-Trump bias in the commission were only bolstered by a cryptic tweet sent by C-SPAN’s Steve Scully, who was set to moderate the second showdown between Trump Biden.
Posted early Friday morning, the vague missive posed a simple question: “should I respond to Trump,” addressed to former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who’s since become a vocal critic of the president. Though the co-chair of the commission later clarified that Scully had been “hacked,” the incident only spurred suspicions of hidden dealings behind the scenes of the debate.
Shortly before the commission’s verdict, Trump announced that he would address “peaceful protesters” in support of law enforcement from the White House balcony on Saturday and hold a “big” rally in Florida on Monday, his first after receiving treatment for the coronavirus.