Trump Bails Out of Virtual Debate

The president seizes an excuse to bow out of another disastrous performance.

Oct. 5, Trump gestures to the press after getting off of Marine OneKen Cedeno/ZUMA

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Mere moments after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the next face-off between Donald Trump and Joe Biden would be held virtually rather than in person, the president on Thursday rejected the plan and called it a “waste” of his time.

“I’m not gonna do a virtual debate,” Trump said during a phone-in appearance on Fox Business. “No, I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate, it’s ridiculous.” 

He went on to complain that the whole concept of a virtual debate was inherently unfair to him, They cut you off whenever they want,” he claimed. Moreover, the moderator, Steve Scully of C-SPAN, was a “never Trumper.” Trump also accused the Commission, without evidence, of “trying to protect Biden.”

Those baseless allegations were echoed in a statement from the Trump campaign shortly after his Fox News appearance. “For the swamp creatures at the Presidential Debate Commission to now rush to Joe Biden’s defense by unilaterally canceling an in-person debate is pathetic.”

But while Trump was quick to object to the change, it’s likely that it may have come as something of a relief for a campaign in free-fall. Trump’s disastrous performance at the first debate last week, where he appeared wholly consumed with shouting over his opponent with lies and smears, came smack in the middle of a uniquely damaging week for Trump. The week began with the New York Times publishing an explosive investigation into years of tax avoidance by the president, and ended on Friday with Trump being flown by helicopter to Walter Reed Medical Hospital to receive treatment for the coronavirus. Multiple White House officials, their family members, reporters, and residence staff have since tested positive for the virus.

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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