The decision to scrap the debate came after Trump rejected plans for a virtual event, and Biden later scheduled an ABC News town hall later that evening.
The debate was to be moderated by C-SPAN’s Steve Scully and would have featured an audience of voters who would pose questions to the candidates. But on Thursday, the commission announced plans for each candidate to appear remotely, over concerns of exposure to coronavirus.
Trump, who is recovering from the virus, quickly rejected that change, an accused the debate commission, a bipartisan group, of favoring Biden. Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, initially indicated that he would participate, but then scheduled a town hall with ABC News that night.
A network source said that there is some effort to arrange a town hall with Trump that same evening as well, including an NBC News event. If it happens, the event would be outside, and other precautions would be taken, as well as confirmation that Trump had a negative COVID-19 test.
Plans for an Oct. 22 debate, to be moderated by NBC News’ Kristen Welker are still proceeding. That debate will have a traditional format, and both candidates have agreed to participate, the commission said.
“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 commission said.
If that debate proceeds, it will mean that Trump and Biden will have held just two matchups rather than the traditional three. Not since 1996, when President Bill Clinton debated Bob Dole, have there been just two general election debates.
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