Frank Fahrenkopf: Debate staff 'very, very upset' they were on same stage as Trump


Frank Fahrenkopf, who co-chairs the Commission on Presidential Debates, said Friday that staff were “very, very upset” that they ended up on the same debate stage as President Trump on Sept. 29 and that some are fearing for the health of their families.

Mr. Fahrenkopf was explaining the commission’s decision to switch to a virtual format for the Oct. 15 debate — an event that appears to be off for now after Mr. Trump rejected the new rules.

He said CPD crew like camera operators and lighting technicians were “very, very upset” that they ended up on the same stage as the president in Cleveland, Ohio.

“He wasn’t wearing a mask. They’re upset. They’re concerned about their families,” Mr. Fahrenkopf told host Brian Kilmeade on Fox News Radio.

Mr. Trump announced early on Oct. 2 that he tested positive for the coronavirus, several days after he and Joseph R. Biden debated in person in Cleveland on Sept. 29.Mr. Fahrenkopf said the ever-increasing number of infections among White House staff is impossible to ignore.

“If you’re an average citizen and you’re looking — the White House, supposedly the safest place on earth… I mean, everyone [on] the staff almost is down,” he said.

Mr. Trump says he’s feeling better, but Mr. Fahrenkopf said even a negative test wouldn’t necessarily mean the president is out of the woods health-wise.

“At this point in time, there is no evidence whatsoever… when the president tested negative,” he said.

On Thursday, the CPD had issued a generic statement saying only that they were switching the format to protect the health and safety of people involved with the debate.

Mr. Trump’s team said the commission is trying to bail Mr. Biden out with the new rules because the president cleaned his clock in the Sept. 29 debate, which was an off-the-rails affair dominated by name-calling and interruptions from both candidates.

Mr. Fahrenkopf pointed out on Friday that he chaired the Republican National Committee in the 1980s and said the commission isn’t trying to put its thumb on the scale for anyone.

“Listen, I’m a good Republican, OK?” he said with a laugh. “Nothing was done intentionally to hurt the president, help Biden, or vice versa.”

Mr. Fahrenkopf said they wanted to err on the side of safety, particularly since the Oct. 15 debate was supposed to be a town hall with voters asking questions of the candidates.

He raised the prospect that Mr. Trump could participate from the Oval Office while Mr. Biden debates from his home in Delaware, a visual that would arguably benefit the president.

“I don’t know how anybody gets help out of this one way or another,” he said.

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