Trump Bails Out of Virtual Debate

The president seizes an excuse to bow out of another disastrous performance.

Oct. 5, Trump gestures to the press after getting off of Marine OneKen Cedeno/ZUMA

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Mere moments after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the next face-off between Donald Trump and Joe Biden would be held virtually rather than in person, the president on Thursday rejected the plan and called it a “waste” of his time.

“I’m not gonna do a virtual debate,” Trump said during a phone-in appearance on Fox Business. “No, I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate, it’s ridiculous.” 

He went on to complain that the whole concept of a virtual debate was inherently unfair to him, They cut you off whenever they want,” he claimed. Moreover, the moderator, Steve Scully of C-SPAN, was a “never Trumper.” Trump also accused the Commission, without evidence, of “trying to protect Biden.”

Those baseless allegations were echoed in a statement from the Trump campaign shortly after his Fox News appearance. “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.”

But while Trump was quick to object to the change, it’s likely that it may have come as something of a relief for a campaign in free-fall. Trump’s disastrous performance at the first debate last week, where he appeared wholly consumed with shouting over his opponent with lies and smears, came smack in the middle of a uniquely damaging week for Trump. The week began with the New York Times publishing an explosive investigation into years of tax avoidance by the president, and ended on Friday with Trump being flown by helicopter to Walter Reed Medical Hospital to receive treatment for the coronavirus. Multiple White House officials, their family members, reporters, and residence staff have since tested positive for the virus.

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