Trump vows not to participate in virtual debate

This combination of Sept. 29, 2020, photos shows President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. The Commission on Presidential Debates says the second Trump-Biden debate will be ‘virtual’ amid concerns about the president's COVID-19. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump vowed Thursday not to participate in next week’s debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden after organizers announced it will take place virtually because of the president’s diagnosis of COVID-19.

“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump told Fox Business News, moments after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the changes unilaterally.

That cast serious doubts on whether the event will go forward, even as Biden’s campaign vowed that its candidate will participate.

“Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people,” deputy Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.

When Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris squared off for their only vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night, they shared a stage but were separated by plexiglass.

The announcement came a week before Biden and Trump were scheduled to face off in Miami.

Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus a week ago and but in a Tuesday tweet said he looked forward to debating Biden on stage in Miami, “It will be great!” he tweeted.

Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive.

Trump’s campaign said the president would do a rally instead of the debate.

“For the swamp creatures at the Presidential Debate Commission to now rush to Joe Biden’s defense by unilaterally canceling an in-person debate is pathetic,” Bill Stepien, Trump campaign manager said in a statement. “The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without canceling 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.”

Biden said earlier in the week that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but added “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.” He said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive.

Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus a week ago, but in a Tuesday tweet said he looked forward to debating Biden a second time, “It will be great!” he tweeted.