WASHINGTON — Democratic nominee Joe Biden will now participate in an ABC town hall with voters in Philadelphia after President Trump announced Thursday that he was boycotting their second presidential debate in Miami over a sudden format change.
In a release, the network announced it would host a primetime town hall with the former vice president moderated by anchor George Stephanopoulos — just hours after the commander in chief said he wouldn’t participate in the Oct. 15 show-down after organizers made it virtual.
“No, I’m not going to waste my time in a virtual debate,” Trump told Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo.
It’s now unclear whether the second presidential debate will go ahead at all.
Debate commission co-chairman Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. told The Wall Street Journal that staff would still travel to Miami on Thursday evening to begin preparing for the match-up in case it went ahead.
“We’re not going to stop that until we officially get word from both campaigns that they’re not going to do it,” Fahrenkopf said, according to a tweet by reporter Ken Thomas.
But the former veep will be in Pennsylvania — nowhere near Florida — while the president is refusing to agree to the new terms of the meeting.
In an interview with Bartiromo on Thursday morning, the commander in chief accused the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates of changing the format to help Biden, not because of safety precautions.
The president is back at the White House after testing positive for COVID-19 and spending three nights in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before being released on Monday.
Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien said the campaign would do a rally instead, calling the debate a “sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden.”
Several hours later, he said Trump’s re-election campaign was willing to do another contest, if it was held a week later. The Biden campaign rejected Stepien’s proposal.
“Donald Trump doesn’t make the debate schedule; the Debate Commission does,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement.
“We accepted the three dates — Sept. 29, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 — in June. Trump chose today to pull out of the Oct. 15th debate,” she went on.
“Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing,” she said.
In Arizona, Biden complicated matters when he suggested he would still show up in Miami, with or without his opponent.
“I’m sticking with the dates, I’m showing up. I’ll be there. And in fact, if he shows up, fine. If he doesn’t, fine,” he said.
On Thursday evening, Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic opponent Sen. Kamala Harris had their lone debate in Salt Lake City, with both candidates repeatedly dodging tricky questions.
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