The second presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, scheduled for October 15, has been officially cancelled, the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates confirmed on Friday (October 9).
“Each (candidate) now has announced alternate plans for that date,” the commission said in a statement.
With the October 15 debate knocked off the agenda, only one more is scheduled – on October 22 in Nashville, Tennesse, before the November 3 presidential polls.
The decision was made a day after the commission announced the debate would take place “virtually” because Trump had contracted the coronavirus.
Trump balked at holding the debate in that format, and Biden scheduled a town hall with ABC News for that night once Trump said he would not participate.
Trump’s team later countered with a call to hold the debates as scheduled once the president’s doctor said he would be cleared to hold public events beginning on Saturday.
But the commission said it would not reverse its decision not to have the candidates on stage together, citing an abundance of caution with health concerns particularly for the town-hall-style debate that was set to feature questions from average voters.
Biden earlier this week had said that he will not debate Trump in person if he still carried the infection. His team had also called Trump’s refusal to participate in a virtual debate “shameful”.
“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’s spokesperson Andew Bates said.
Trump who was convalescing from COVID-19 infection, meanwhile plans to hold an in-person event on the White House lawns for the first time since contracting the viral disease on Saturday and hit the election campaign trail from Florida on Monday.
The president took to Twitter to announce his decision to return to campaigning. “Will be in Sanford, Florida, on Monday for a very BIG RALLY!” he wrote.
Trump, 74, and First Lady Melania tested positive for COVID-19 last week. The president was taken to a military hospital for treatment, which the White House said was taken as a “matter of abundance caution”. After spending four days, he came back to the White House on Monday. White House physician Dr Sean Conley said on Thursday that the president was “safe” to return to public life on Saturday.
(With inputs from agencies)