The second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden has been cancelled, the Commission on Presidential Debates confirmed Friday, a move that came as the president announced his first in-person events since being diagnosed with Covid-19.
The decision by the nonpartisan commission follows a public disagreement between the two candidates over the debate’s format. The commission had previously announced the debate would take place “virtually” due to Trump’s diagnosis. Trump, however, said he would refuse to participate in a virtual event, while Biden advocated for it for safety reasons.
But the commission said it would not reverse its decision, citing an abundance of caution and health concerns, particularly for the town-hall-style debate that was to feature questions from voters.
“It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22,” the commission said in a statement.
The third and final debate, scheduled for 22 October in Nashville, Tennessee, is still on.
The move came shortly after Trump announced his first in-person events since his Covid-19 diagnosis, including a speech at the White House on Saturday and a campaign rally in Florida on Monday, even as he remains potentially contagious for the virus.
The White House event will see Trump discuss “law and order”, and he is expecting to address a crowd from the White House balcony.
The White House physician, Sean Conley, said on Thursday in a press release that “based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the president’s safe return to public engagements” on Saturday, eight days after Trump announced his positive test early last Friday.
Trump had initially indicated he hoped to hold a rally on Saturday night. “I think I’m going to try doing a rally on Saturday night if we can, if we have enough time to put it together,” Trump said on Thursday. The event did not materialize.
At least one Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been linked by a local health official to an increase in coronavirus cases. Most supporters at recent Trump events have eschewed masks and social distancing measures.
While Trump has been doing hours-long interviews with conservative hosts, it has only been just over a week since he announced his diagnosis. Medical experts have voiced concerns that, because the White House has refused to show results of Trump’s chest x-rays and lung scans, the public does not have a complete picture of whether the president has fully recovered from the virus.
Trump has avoided questions on whether he has yet tested negative for the virus. In the president’s first on-camera interview since his diagnosis, Trump said he was feeling “very good and very strong” , but once again refused to answer a question about his latest test results.
“I don’t know numbers or anything but I have been retested and I’m at the bottom of the scale or free,” Trump told.
The remote interview, which had been advertised as a “medical exam” but did not involve any exam or medical analysis, was conducted by Marc Siegel, a doctor and Fox News contributor who has previously downplayed the severity of coronavirus.
Attendees at Monday’s rally in Sanford, Florida, will be asked to sign a waiver acknowledging Covid-19 risks, according to the event’s registration page, and waive their right to sue Trump or the venue if they contract the virus.
An outbreak of Covid-19 among senior White House and military figures has caused a dramatic situation within the Trump administration. At least 20 people in or working around the executive mansion have tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days.
In an interview on Friday, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the nomination of judge Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court at the White House’s Rose Garden in late September was a “super-spreader” event.
“The data speak for themselves. We had a super-spreader event in the White House. It was in a situation where people were crowded together, were not wearing masks,” Fauci said.
At least seven people who attended the event of about 150 people have tested positive for the virus, including the US senator Mike Lee; the University of Notre Dame president, the Rev John Jenkins; the former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and the former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway.