American President Donald Trump said Thursday he will not take part in a presidential debate next week with former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump spoke shortly after organizers of the event announced that it would be held online. They added that Trump and Biden, the two main candidates, would be in separate locations. Organizers said the move was designed to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.
Biden is the Democratic Party's candidate in the November 3 election. Trump is seeking re-election as the Republican nominee.
The president told Fox Business News, "I'm not going to waste my time on a virtual debate." He added, "You sit behind a computer and do a debate. It's ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want."
The two candidates were to meet in person in Miami, Florida for the debate on October 15. However, Trump became sick with COVID-19 last week, just two days after their first debate in Cleveland, Ohio.
The president received aggressive treatments, including oxygen to help his breathing, during a three-day stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Trump is now back at the White House. His doctor has provided limited information on his current condition.
In a statement, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a person with COVID-19 should isolate from others for at least 10 days. It added that those "who were admitted to a hospital and needed oxygen" should stay away from others for as many as 20 days.
A representative of the Biden campaign signaled that the candidate would join the virtual debate. She said in a statement, "Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people."
Trump's campaign manager said the president would take part in an election campaign event instead of the debate. During his phone call with Fox Business News, Trump said, "I think I'm better... I'd love to do a rally tonight...I want to do one last night."
Getting on a flight to campaign in Arizona Thursday, Biden said, "We don't know what the president's going to do. He changes his mind every second." He added, "If he goes off and has a rally — I don't know what I'll do."
Later on Thursday, the Biden campaign suggested delaying the second debate until October 22 so that both candidates could attend. The Trump campaign released a statement saying, "Americans deserve to hear directly from both presidential candidates on these dates, October 22 and 29."
Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. is a co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates. He told USA TODAY, "There's no way you can force a presidential candidate to debate. It's up to them whether they debate or not." Fahrenkopf noted that the commission would not hold the event with just one candidate.
If it does happen, it is not the first debate in which the candidates are not in the same room. In 1960, a debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy was broadcast with the two presidential candidates on opposite sides of the country. Kennedy was in New York, while Nixon appeared from Los Angeles.
Wednesday night, the two main candidates for vice president debated in Salt Lake City, Utah. Vice President Mike Pence is the Republican nominee. The Democratic Party candidate is U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California.
The two were seated 3.6 meters apart from each other and separated by plexiglass to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus. Both tested negative for the virus.
I'm Caty Weaver.