MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Despite President Donald Trump’s diagnosis of COVID-19, Belmont University said it will still host the final presidential debate later this month.
The university has put a lot of time and resources in the past year planning the event.
Dr. Bob Fisher, Belmont’s president, said in a statement on Monday the university is planning to honor their commitment for now for the Oct. 22 at Curb Event Center.
Fisher issued the following statement on Monday morning:
“First and most importantly, our thoughts and prayers are with President and Mrs. Trump and everyone diagnosed with COVID-19, that they may each experience a full and speedy recovery. Twelve months ago, Belmont was selected to host the third and final presidential debate of 2020. With less than three weeks to go, we are fully committed to working with the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) and our health advisors on final preparations and will continue to follow their lead and guidance. For now, we are moving forward with our work to ensure we are 100 percent prepared to fulfill our commitment to host the third and final presidential debate on Oct. 22.”
President Trump announced early Friday morning that he has tested positive for coronavirus. He was set to be released from the Walter Reed military hospital on Monday evening.
“I’m not surprised. Belmont has put in an incredible amount of work into this,” News4 political analyst Kent Syler, a political science professor at MTSU, said. “It’s a great honor for Belmont University. It’s great for the city of Nashville.”
Syler agrees with the university’s decision, calling it a potentially pivotal and history-making event.
“Performances in debates can change the outcome of presidential races, so this is a very important last chance for the American public to hear from these candidates one-on-on,” he said.
As for which candidate stands to benefit the most from having the debate, Syler said it’s President Trump.
“His poll numbers after the debate before the COVID diagnosis were not going in the right direction,” Syler said. “He needs an opportunity to restart, to be able to put that one behind him, and move on.”
It’s unclear whether Trump’s diagnosis will change the format. Many are speculating about the debate going virtual, and it wouldn’t be the first time - that would be in 1960 when Richard Nixon debated from Los Angeles and John F. Kennedy from New York.
“It looked good. I looked at the tape last night, so a debate where one candidate is in one place and another is somewhere else was pulled off 60 years ago. It can be done in 2020,” Syler said.
The university didn’t say how many people will be allowed inside Curb Event Center or what safety measures would be in place at the debate. Belmont officials declined to do an on-camera interview with News4.