(Bloomberg) — The Commission on Public Debates officially canceled the town hall-style debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden scheduled for Oct. 15.

When the Trump campaign rejected plans to make the debate virtual after he was infected with the coronavirus, the commission announced the debate will not be happening, given that both Biden and Trump said they wouldn’t attend.

“It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22,” the commission said in a statement. “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.”

The Oct. 15 debate was to be in Miami moderated by C-SPAN’s Steve Scully. The CPD announced Thursday that it would be done remotely, but the Trump campaign refused, demanding that it be held in-person. “No I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” Trump said in a telephone interview with Fox Business Thursday. “That’s not what debating’s about.”

The decision to make the debate virtual came after Trump was diagnosed with Covid-19 and hospitalized for three nights over the weekend. His campaign has insisted that he would be fully convalesced by the time of the Oct. 15 debate.

Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said it was “shameful” that Trump backed out of the only town hall-style debate of the three planned meetings.


“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,” he said.

Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s director of communications, said there was “no medical reason to stop the October 15 debate in Miami from proceeding since the President will be healthy and ready to debate.” He said the CPD was biased in in Biden’s favor, and reprised an offer to make up for the cancellation of the forum by adding a debate on Oct. 29. The Biden team rejected that proposal on Thursday.

“It’s time for the biased commission to stop protecting Biden and preventing voters from hearing from the two candidates for president,” Murtaugh said. “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.”

Both candidates have made other plans for Oct. 15. Biden will participate in a town hall in Philadelphia hosted by ABC News and moderated by George Stephanopoulos. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said Thursday the president would hold a rally, but ABC News reported Friday that he is planning to take part in a town hall hosted by NBC.

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