The political process within American Democracy is being challenged again after Donald Trump signaled that he will not participate in the upcoming scheduled virtual debate against his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
However strange it seems, it’s not without precedent.
“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” Trump said during a Thursday interview on Fox Business Network, adding that he doesn’t like the idea of a virtual debate because a moderator could cut him off at any time.
Roughly an hour before Trump’s revelation, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the next event would move to a virtual format in response to Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis. The debate is scheduled for October 15 and will be moderated by C-SPAN’s Steve Scully from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.
Trump also suggested that he’s feeling well enough to hold a rally, which would signal another misstep in safety, potentially exposing attendees to the coronavirus. But if he’s well enough to attend a rally, why not participate in a debate that can be orchestrated from the comforts of the White House?
If Trump goes through his plan of skipping the debate, it won’t be the first time a sitting president has done so. After the first televised presidential debate in 1960 where John F. Kennedy faced off against Richard Nixon, President Lyndon B. Johnson declined debating his Republican opponent Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election cycle. In 1968 and 1972, President Richard Nixon declined to debate and won both elections.
In 2016 as a presidential candidate, Trump refused to participate in a January GOP presidential debate moderated by former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly due to their contentious history. In March, a Fox News debate was cancelled after Trump opted out, followed by remaining GOP candidates. Rand Paul also opted to not join an undercard debate hosted by Fox Business News and Facebook in 2016.
In 2012, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney skipped the first GOP debate. Romney along with Jon Huntsman, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Rep. Ron Paul skipped a Dec. 2011 debate, ironically hosted by Donald Trump. The debate was cancelled after Trump withdrew from moderating.
In 1980 presidential candidate Ronald Reagan famously skipped the final debate before the Iowa Caucus.
During the off the rails Fox Business News interview Trump weighed in on Wednesday’s debate between Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence. After suggesting Biden is mentally incapable of serving as president, he again signaled a dog whistle, stemming from racism and misogyny by referring to Harris as a “monster.”
Rumors surrounding Donald Trump’s COVID-19 recovery continues to loom, with critics summarizing that Trump may actually be sicker than he is letting on. On Twitter The Lincoln Project, a Republican backed PAC against Trump launched a #WhereIsTrump hashtag, questioning Trump’s status after he went over 40 hours without appearing on camera.
Later that day Trump posted a video on Twitter from the White House.
Trump’s most recent interview will only add to the conspiracy theories of those who believe his health is worsening, which puts the nation at risk.