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Chris Wallace says Trump 'made big mistake' by bailing from second presidential debate

"It’s better than no debate"

Updated: October 9, 2020 - 1:29pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Chris Wallace, the Fox News personality who was roundly ripped for his performance as moderator in the first presidential debate, said Friday that President Trump is making a mistake by dropping out of the second faceoff.

On Thursday, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the second debate, planned for Oct. 15, would be "virtual," with the two candidates in different studios and not on site.

Trump quickly said he'd skip that format. Both sides spent the day sniping, but the CPD didn't budge, even as the whole debacle became nearly unfathomable, with Team Trump and the Biden campaign offering different options.

“I actually don’t think it’s that complicated. I think there is not going to be the debate next week, and, pretty clearly, I think the president made a big mistake," Wallace said. “I don’t think it was unreasonable for the commission to say, look, given all the concerns about people’s health that we are going to make it a virtual debate."

“Where I think the president made a mistake is maybe a virtual debate isn’t an in-person debate, but it’s better than no debate,” Wallace said. “That’s what the president will get now.”

The Fox News analyst also said Trump has more to lose than Biden by bailing from the debate.

“He is behind in the polls. He has two opportunities; it seems to me two big opportunities to flip the script, which were the two debates, and he gave one of them away," Wallace said.

Trump last week tested positive for the coronavirus. He spend three night at the Walter Reed medical center and returned Monday to the White House. The White House physician said earlier this week that the president is symptom free and by Saturday can resume his public schedule. 

In its Thursday statement, the CPD said: "In order to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate, scheduled for October 15, 2020, The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced the following today: The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations. The town meeting participants and the moderator, Steve Scully, Senior Executive Producer & Political Editor, C-SPAN Networks, will be located at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami, Florida. The White House Pool will provide coverage of the second presidential debate."

Trump quickly announced he would not participate in a virtual debate. 

"I'm not going to waste my time on a virtual debate," he said on Fox News on Thursday morning. "It's not what debating is all about. ... It's ridiculous."

A short time after the announcement, Biden's campaign announced that the Democratic presidential candidate would find "an appropriate place" to take questions directly from voters. Trump, for his part, announced he would instead hold a campaign rally.

"Joe Biden was prepared to accept the CPD's proposal for a virtual town hall, but the president has refused, as Donald Trump clearly does not want to face questions from the voters about his failures on COVID and the economy," said Kate Bedingfield, Biden's deputy campaign manager. "As a result, Joe Biden will find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly on October 15th, as he has done on several occasions in recent weeks." 

The Trump campaign was left fuming over the CPD decision.

"This was a decision they made without consultation with our campaign, but it's in line with their history of doing everything they can to protect Joe Biden," said Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Bill Stepien, Trump 2020 campaign manager, weighed in later on Thursday.

"The American people should not be deprived of the chance to see the two candidates for president debate face to face two more times just because the Commission on Presidential Debates wants to protect Joe Biden," Stepien said. "It remains extremely suspect that the CPD announced the brand new virtual format at 7:30 a.m. ET today immediately after Vice President Mike Pence had just wiped the floor with Senator Kamala Harris. 

"Clearly the commission wanted to shift attention away from Pence's complete victory. As President Trump said, a virtual debate is a non-starter and would clearly be a gift to Biden because he would be relying on his teleprompter from his basement bunker."

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