President Trump, in his first interview since his positive coronavirus test, told Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo on Thursday that he will not participate in the next debate, just minutes after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the showdown, slated for Oct. 15, will be virtual.
The CPD announced early Thursday that "the second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations." Steve Scully of C-SPAN is still set to moderate the second presidential debate from Miami.
But, in a Fox Business interview Thursday, the president said he would not take part in a virtual debate.
"The commission changed the debate style and that's not acceptable to us," Trump said on "Mornings with Maria." "I beat him in the first debate, I beat him easily."
The president added that he expected to "beat him in the second debate also."
"I'm not going to do a virtual debate," Trump went on. "I’m not going to waste my time at a virtual debate."
Biden responded to Trump's claims while talking to reporters in Delaware on Thursday.
"We don't know what the president is going to do, he changes his mind every second so for me to comment on that now would be irresponsible," Biden said. "I'm going to follow the commission recommendations."
During his interview on Thursday, the president said he wasn't going to "sit at a computer" to debate, calling it "ridiculous."
"They're trying to protect Biden," Trump said. "Everybody is."
Moments later, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said the CPD was rushing to Biden's "defense by unilaterally canceling an in-person debate," calling it "pathetic."
"That’s not what debates are about or how they’re done," Stepien said. "Here are the facts: President 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 canceling a chance for voters to see both candidates go head to head."
He added: "We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”
But the Biden campaign seemingly accepted the rules change early Thursday.
"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," Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.
The debate format changes come less than a week after the president announced he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the novel coronavirus. That announcement threw the status of all future 2020 debates in doubt, though the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris went on as planned Wednesday night with on-stage dividers between the candidates after both had tested negative for the coronavirus.
Trump was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, after his medical team said he could continue his coronavirus treatment from the White House. He had his reelection campaign at the forefront of his mind, tweeting shortly before departing that he would soon be back on the campaign trail, while blasting polls that showed him trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!! The Fake News only shows the Fake Polls,” Trump tweeted before being discharged from Walter Reed Monday.
Meanwhile, shortly after the president returned to the White House, where he continued to be treated for COVID-19, his campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said the president planned to take part in the debates.
"The president intends to debate," Murtaugh told Fox News Monday.
Symone Sanders, a senior campaign adviser to Biden, said on Sunday that the former vice president was “looking forward” to the Oct. 15 town hall-style debate in Miami and that he hoped Trump would be well enough to attend.
"We are looking forward to the debate on Oct. 15 in Miami," Sanders said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union" on Sunday. "It’s a town hall and, as you know, Vice President Biden loves a good town hall.”
Sanders added: “And we are hoping President Trump can participate. We're hoping that he's medically able to participate, and that is up to his doctors to clear him. But Joe Biden will be at that debate."
Since Trump’s announcement of his positive coronavirus test, numerous members of his White House inner circle and his reelection campaign have come down with the contagion.
Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien also tested positive for COVID-19 and is working remotely. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced Monday that she had tested positive for COVID-19, in addition to other White House staff who have tested positive including senior adviser Hope Hicks, Stephen Miller and director of Oval Office operations Nick Luna.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said that the president has been “fever-free” for four days and has not had any symptoms of the novel coronavirus for “over 24 hours.”
“The President this morning says ‘I feel great!’,” Conley wrote in a memo to McEnany. “His physical exam and vital signs, including oxygen saturation and respiratory rate, all remain stable and in normal range.”
Conley added that the president has “now been fever-free for more than 4 days, symptom-free for over 24 hours, and has not needed nor received any supplemental oxygen since initial hospitalization.”
“Of note today, the President’s labs demonstrated detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies from labs drawn Monday, October 5th; initial IgG levels drawn late Thursday night were undetectable,” Conley continued, adding that the president’s medical team will “continue to closely monitor” and will provide updates as necessary.
Fox News' Griff Jenkins and Pat Ward contributed to this report.