US President Donald Trump added more turbulence to the US election campaign on Thursday, pulling out of an October 15 debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden after it was changed to a virtual event to guard against the spread of Covid-19.
Mr. Trump, who was hospitalised for three days after disclosing last Friday he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, blasted the format change announced by the nonpartisan commission in charge of the debates and expressed concern his microphone could be cut off.
I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That is not what debating is all about, Mr. Trump said in a nearly hour-long phone interview. You sit behind a computer and do a debate- it's ridiculous, and then they cut you off whenever they want.
Mr. Trump's decision means the second and final debate between the two White House contenders will be on October 22, less than two weeks before the November 3 election. In lieu of the October 15 debate, Mr. Biden's campaign quickly arranged a town hall-style event in Philadelphia that night.
Some of Mr. Trump's advisers questioned his decision not to participate in the new debate format, arguing he would miss an opportunity to make his case to millions of voters tuned in, a source familiar with the situation said.
With Mr. Trump's handling of the pandemic dominating the campaign, a new poll showed Americans are steadily losing confidence in how the president has managed the health crisis with his net approval on the issue hitting a record low.
I would love to do a rally tonight. I wanted to do one last night, Mr. Trump said, adding that "if I am at a rally, I stand by myself very far away from everybody."
Mr. Trump has not been seen in public since he returned to the White House from the hospital, although he has released several videos. His physician said in a memo on Thursday evening that he expects Mr. Trump to return to public engagements on Saturday. Mr. Trump has completed his course of therapy for the virus, the physician said.