US President Donald Trump has declined to participate in a virtual televised debate with his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Previously, the committee organizing the October 15 debate in Miami said it should take place remotely.
He made the decision after Mr. Trump was treated for Covid-19. He has no current symptoms but the White House is tackling a group of positive tests.
He said the move to virtual was to “protect” his rival. Mr Biden said Mr Trump “is changing his mind every second”.
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The first presidential debate on September 30 ended with insults and interruptions. The vice-presidential debate, which took place Wednesday night between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, was a much more measured affair.
The US election will take place on November 3. The latest opinion polls give Mr Biden a high single-digit lead nationally, but the outcome is often decided in battlefield states where the races can be much closer.
Qu’a dit Trump?
His comments in a telephone interview with Fox Business Channel on Thursday touched on a number of key issues, including his health and the possibility of moving towards a stimulus package for the economy.
But it was his comments on the format of the debate that captured the most attention.
Mr Trump said: “I am not going to waste my time on a personal debate. Sit behind a computer, ridiculous. They cut you off… I’m not doing a virtual debate. ”
He also described the Miami debate moderator – C-SPAN satellite and cable television political editor Steve Scully – as “never deceptive.”
A statement from Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien, who had also previously tested positive for Covid, said the commission’s decision to ‘rush to the defense of Joe Biden’ was ‘pathetic’ and that Mr Trump would have posted “several negative tests” before the debate. .
He said Mr. Trump would hold a rally instead.
Regarding his health, Mr Trump said: “I am back because I am a perfect physical specimen. ”
He said he had quit taking most of ‘medicine’ but was still taking steroids and would be tested again for Covid ‘soon’.
But although his doctor has said he is no longer showing symptoms, questions remain as to when the president was first infected and if he could still be contagious.
And while the names of many who have interacted with the president and who have tested positive are now known, it is not known exactly how many were exposed in the White House. New Covid security measures are in place there.
Mr Trump said Thursday that “someone came in and people were infected” but gave no further details.
- Who met Trump and who tested positive?
A September 26 rally announcing Mr. Trump’s choice to the Supreme Court was considered a possible “super-broadcaster” event, with a number of attendees known to have tested positive.
What is the position of the Biden team?
Mr Biden had previously been wary of an event on stage, saying he would attend if medical experts gave the green light.
He said after Mr. Trump’s comments on the virtual debate: “We don’t know what the president is going to do. He changes his mind every second. For me to comment on this now would be irresponsible.
“I think I will follow the recommendation of the commission. If he leaves and he organizes a rally, I don’t know what I’m going to do. You never know what will come out of his mouth. ”
Biden Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said: “Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people and comparing his plan to bring the country closer and build better with the failed leadership of Donald Trump on the coronavirus that threw away the strong economy it inherited. in the worst downturn since the Great Depression. ”
What was behind the decision of the debate committee?
The 90-minute presidential debate was scheduled to be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, with local residents present in the audience asking questions of the candidates.
But the Commission on Presidential Debates said on Thursday that candidates should participate “from separate remote locations.” The participants and the moderator would be in Miami.
The commission said the decision was taken “to protect the health and safety of all those involved”.
Another debate is currently scheduled – October 22 in Tennessee.
What about the economy?
The president said on Tuesday he was halting talks with Democrats over a comprehensive Covid stimulus package but, after a backlash from the stock market, said he would instead try to strike individual deals.
He was more optimistic on Thursday, saying he saw a “very good” chance of reaching agreement on a series of issues.
“We are starting to have very productive discussions,” he said.
The main areas of progress have been aid to airlines and a $ 1,200 (£ 930) stimulus check for workers.
Republicans under Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Democrats under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have had regular discussions but have differed on how much they want to spend.
What happened during the debate between the VPs?
Wednesday night’s event in Utah was a civil debate between two fluid communicators over last week’s belligerent confrontation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.
But there were passionate exchanges.
Ms Harris accused Mr Pence and the president of deliberately deceiving Americans about the lethality of the coronavirus.
Mr Pence accused the Biden-Harris campaign of copying the White House’s pandemic strategy.
Mr. Pence said he was shocked at the murder of African American George Floyd in Minnesota. But he added: “There is no excuse for the riots and looting that followed. ”
Ms Harris said the president refused to condemn white supremacists.
BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher said it was time-honored, with some highlights and stumbles for both, but that such a result in and of itself would be good news for Democrats.
- Read Anthony’s full review