University of Michigan withdrawing as presidential debate host
The University of Michigan is cancelling its commitment to host one of three scheduled presidential debates between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, citing health concerns.
“Given the scale and complexity of the work we are undertaking to help assure a safe and healthy fall for our students, faculty and staff and limited visitors — and in consideration of the public health guidelines in our state as well as advice from our own experts — we feel it is not feasible for us to safely host the presidential debate as planned," the university's president, Mark Schlissel, said in a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates.
The Detroit Free Press first reported the school's decision. The newspaper noted that while the university is tentatively planning to resume in-person learning for the fall semester, officials have said numerous classes will be partially or fully online, and Schlissel has said it would be a “public health informed” semester.
Officials decided that, during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the amount of media, campaign officials and supporters flocking to campus would pose too much of an infection threat, according to the Free Press.
The university was set to host the penultimate debate of the general election on Oct. 15. It would have been the first general election debate in Michigan since 1992, when President George H.W. Bush, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and businessman Ross Perot debated at Michigan State University.
The development comes as Trump’s reelection campaign has pushed for a fourth debate in addition to the already-planned three presidential debates. A single debate between Vice President Pence and Biden’s to-be-determined running mate is also planned.
The Biden campaign has said it will not agree to an additional presidential debate.
“Our position is straightforward and clear: Joe Biden will accept the Commission’s debates, on the Commission’s dates, under the Commission’s established format and the Commission’s independent choice of moderators,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates. “Donald Trump and Mike Pence should do the same.”
Currently, the first and third debates, which will be held at Indiana’s University of Notre Dame on Sept. 15 and Belmont University in Nashville on Oct. 22, respectively, remain on the schedule.