Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The stage is set ahead of the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall of the University of Utah October 7, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images)

The stage is set ahead of the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall of the University of Utah on October 7, 2020 in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images)

Second Presidential Debate Canceled After Trump's Battle With Covid-19 Spurs Fight Over Safety Protocols

The Commission on Presidential Debates "will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22."

Jessica Corbett

The Commission on Presidential Debates on Friday canceled the second presidential debate planned for next week a day after announcing the event would shift to a virtual format "in order to protect the health and safety of all involved," which prompted President Donald Trump—who is battling Covid-19—to refuse to participate and Democratic nominee Joe Biden to make plans for a televised town hall.

In a statement, the commission confirmed reporting by the Wall Street Journal and CNN that the October 15 debate was canceled, citing the candidates' respective positions on their willingness to participate in a virtual debate. The CPD had said Thursday that the event would "take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations."

"The CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22," the commission said Friday. "Subject to health security considerations, and in accordance with all required testing, masking, social distancing, and other protocols, the debate will take place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee."

Trump had indicated his unwillingness to go along with the CPD's safety protocols for the second debate in a Thursday interview on Fox Business. "I'm not going to waste my time on a virtual debate," the president said. "That's not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate, it's ridiculous."

As CNN detailed Friday:

The Trump campaign, in response to their candidate backing out of the debate, issued three statements on Thursday that slammed the commission, pushed the Biden campaign to agree to an in-person debate, and said they would be willing to push the October 15 debate back a week to October 22 and then move the third debate to October 29, just days before the November 3 election.

But Biden's campaign rejected their proposal, with campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield saying in response, "Donald Trump doesn't make the debate schedule; the debate commission does."

Thursday evening, as the fate of the second debate remained unclear, ABC News announced that it will hold a prime-time town hall featuring Biden on October 15 in Philadelphia. The event hosted by chief anchor George Stephanopoulos "will be held in accordance with state and local government health and safety regulations, as well as guidelines set forward by health officials," the network said.

"Vice President Biden looks forward to making his case to the American people about how to overcome this pandemic, restore American leadership and our alliances in the world, and bring the American people together," Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement Friday. "It's shameful that Donald Trump ducked the only debate in which the voters get to ask the questions—but it's no surprise."

The decision to cancel the second debate came shortly before Trump was set to appear on Fox News for an on-air "medical exam" that critics such as Madeline Peltz of Media Matters for America called "a complete sham aimed at rehabilitating a sick president who, along with Fox News, has the blood of hundreds of thousands of Americans who died unnecessarily in this tragic crisis on their hands."

Earlier Friday, news broke that Trump is planning to hold his first in-person event on Saturday since testing positive for Covid-19. An invitation obtained by ABC News reportedly says that the event at the White House will feature "remarks to peaceful protesters for law and order" by the president.

The president plans to deliver remarks from one of the White House balconies during the Saturday event, for which Trump's campaign sent out more than 2,000 invitations, according to the New York Times.

The newspaper noted that Trump's campaign also announced that he plans hold a rally in Florida on Monday, and attendees will be asked "to sign a disclaimer stating that 'you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19.'"

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Reckless Misuse of Resources': House Approves $778 Billion Military Budget

"There was no CBO score needed. No concern about the deficit. No mention of inflation," said Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

Jake Johnson ·

Senate Dems Help Torpedo Resolution That Would Have Blocked $650 Million Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

"My simple question is, why in the world would the United States reward a regime that has caused such pain in Yemen with more weapons," Sanders asked after the vote. "The answer is we should not."

Brett Wilkins ·

Amnesty Scorecard Finds Twitter Failing to Protect Women From Online Abuse

"As our world has become increasingly dependent on digital spaces during the Covid-19 pandemic, it's critical that Twitter meet this moment with demonstrated commitment to improving the online experiences of all users, regardless of their identity."

Jessica Corbett ·

Filibuster Reform for Debt Ceiling Fight But Not Voting Rights or Reproductive Freedom?

"If our senators are willing to suspend the filibuster to protect our economy, they should be willing to suspend it to protect our democracy and our freedom to vote."

Jessica Corbett ·

As Senate Holds Guantánamo Hearing, Biden Urged to 'Finally End This Chapter of Injustice'

"Guantánamo is a centerpiece of the forever wars. It is a shameful symbol of racial injustice, torture, and violations of the Constitution and international law."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo