Donald Trump on Thursday refused to participate in next week's presidential debate with his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, calling it a 'waste of time' after the organisers announced that the second debate will be held virtually because of the president's diagnosis of COVID-19.
The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates said that the second presidential debate scheduled in Miami on October 15 will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations.
It said the decision has been taken in order to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.
However, President Trump, who tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to a military hospital for four days for its treatment, refused to participate in the virtual debate.
"I'm not going to do a virtual debate. I'm not going to waste my time at a virtual debate," Trump told Fox News in a telephonic interview soon after the independent and not-for-profit Commission announced changes in the format of the debate.
Trump, who claimed victory over Biden in the first presidential debate, asserted that he expects to do the same in the Miami debate as well.
"The commission changed the debate style and that's not acceptable to us. I beat him (Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden) in the first debate, I beat him easily," he said.
Trump alleged that the Commission and everybody is trying to protect Biden.
Reacting to Trump's remarks, Biden said, "I don't know what the President is going to do. He changes his mind every second. For me to comment on that now would be irresponsible. I think that if I can follow the Commission's recommendations -- if he goes off and has a rally, I'll -- I don't know what I'll do."
Trump's eldest son Donald J Trump Jr alleged that the Commission unilaterally changed the format of the debate because of the impressive performance of Vice President Mike Pence against Democratic Senator Kamala Harris at the vice presidential debate last night.
'Does anyone else find it awfully coincidental that the morning after Mike Pence destroys Kamala Harris in a debate that the 'debate commission' unilaterally changes the format to obviously benefit Basement Biden?' Trump Jr tweeted.
'How could the supposedly unbiased debate commission just unilaterally decide to make it a virtual debate without even speaking to the candidates before hand??? Sounds like a big load of crap to help Joe Biden... it's not like the moderator wasn't already one of his interns!' he alleged.
The Trump Campaign said the president would do a rally instead of the debate.
'For the swamp creatures at the Presidential Debate Commission to now rush to Joe Biden's defence by unilaterally canceling an in-person debate is pathetic. That's not what debates are about or how they're done," said Bill Stepien, Trump 2020 campaign manager.
Stepien said that Trump will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate, so there is no need for this unilateral declaration.
"The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without cancelling a chance for voters to see both candidates go head to head. We'll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead," he said.
Biden's campaign insisted that the Democratic leader plans to address the countrymen directly.
"Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people and comparing his plan for bringing the country together and building back better with Donald Trump's failed leadership on the coronavirus that has thrown the strong economy he inherited into the worst downturn since the Great Depression," said Kate Bedingfield, Biden deputy campaign manager.
The vice presidential debate between Harris and Pence saw the duo sparring on Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, jobs, China, racial tensions and climate change, less than four week's ahead of the election.
Wednesday night's live debate at The University of Utah in Salt Lake City was a civil one between the two leaders, separated by plexiglass barriers, compared to last week's showdown between President Trump and Biden, which degenerated into insults and name-calling.