The Commission on Presidential Debates on Friday canceled the second presidential debate in Miami, one day after President Donald Trump refused to take part because it was moved to a virtual format.
The bipartisan commission, under intense criticism from the Trump campaign, announced the decision in a statement late Friday, saying the campaigns of both Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden “each now has announced alternate plans for that date.”
“It is now apparent there will be no debate on Oct. 15, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 22,” the commission said.
The decision means Trump and Biden will square off in a debate only once more – on Oct. 22, in Nashville, Tennessee – before Election Day on Nov. 3. It also means there will not be a presidential town hall debate, with questions coming from voters, for the first time since 1988.
Both campaigns have agreed to the Nashville debate, according to the commission.
The cancelation comes after the commission announced Thursday the next debate would be remote to “protect the health and safety of all involved” after Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis and the subsequent White House outbreak.
Trump promptly said he wasn’t “going to waste my time doing a virtual debate,” calling it a “joke” and an effort “to protect Biden” in an interview on Fox News.
The Biden campaign blamed Trump for the cancellation.
“It’s shameful that Donald Trump ducked the only debate in which the voters get to ask the questions – but it’s no surprise,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said Friday. “Everyone knows that Donald Trump likes to bully reporters, but obviously he doesn’t have the guts to answer for his record to voters at the same time as Vice President Biden.”
The Trump campaign had suggested delaying the final debates each one week so the second would not have to be held virtually.
Trump communications director Tim Murtaugh objected to the commission’s decision, saying there is “no medical reason” to stop the debate in Miami because the president is “healthy and ready to debate.”
“There is also no reason there shouldn’t be the three total presidential debates as Joe Biden had originally agreed,” he said. “We have suggested using October 22 and October 29 to hold the final two debates. It’s time for the biased commission to stop protecting Biden and preventing voters from hearing from the two candidates for president.”
He proposed organizing a third debate with the Biden campaign that’s not affiliated with the Commission on Presidential Debates.
“There’s nothing that says that President Trump and Joe Biden can’t debate together without the overlords at the commission having a say in the matter,” Murtaugh said. “We would be glad to debate one-on-one without the commission’s interference.”
Trump’s decision to back out set off a furious back and forth between the two campaigns on the debate schedule and formats, culminating with Biden scheduling his own televised town hall for Oct. 15 organized by ABC News. Trump won’t be present. His campaign instead said they planned to organize a rally.