US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he will not participate in a debate with Democrat Joe Biden under a new format announced by the debates commission in which each candidate would appear at remote locations.
In an interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo, Mr Trump said the new virtual format announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates was not acceptable to him.
“No, I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate… That’s not what debating’s about,” he said.
Mr Trump said he would hold a rally instead.
He thought the virtual format would allow the moderator to cut him off.
Mr Trump said he would not attend the debate if he was contagious but that he thinks he is now well enough to hold campaign rallies.
He said that he has now stopped most therapeutics for Covid-19 but was still on steroids.
Mr Trump tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday and spent three days in the hospital. The president's infection threw the debate schedule into question, with candidates set to meet again for the second of three head-to-head sessions on October 16.
Mr Biden's team said that he would take part.
“Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people,” deputy Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.
Mr Trump also took aim at his own party in the Fox News interview, saying that Republicans would be at fault if his nominee for Surprise Court Amy Coney Barrett was not confirmed.
Republican senators are racing to hold hearings for Ms Barrett in the hopes of getting her the lifetime appointment before the elections on November 3. However, all the proceedings have been slowed by the party as three Republican senators are currently isolating, having tested positive for Covid-19, giving the Democrats a temporary majority.
The Commission on Presidential Debates said on Thursday that the second meet will be virtual due to the president’s infection.
It will remain, they said, a town hall-style conversation in which voters will press both candidates on a range of issues overseen by a moderator. While the two candidates will appear virtually from other locations, the moderator and the audience will still be physically present at the Miami studio.
What Mr Trump’s refusal to attend means for the format is unclear.
The news came a day after the sole vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Mr Biden's running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, who clashed repeatedly over the Trump administration's response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 216,000 Americans.
Mr Biden and Ms Harris will travel together to the battleground state of Arizona on Thursday, while Mr Pence will also visit the Southwestern state after starting his day in Nevada. Mr Trump remains sidelined from the campaign trail.
Before the new format was announced, Mr Biden previously said he and Mr Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president was Covid-19 positive.
Mr Trump was still contagious with the virus when he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday but his doctors have not provided any detailed update on his status. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms of Covid-19 can be contagious for as many as – and should isolate for at least – 10 days.