NASHVILLE — Belmont University officials say they remain committed to hosting the third and final 2020 presidential debate in late October despite the coronavirus pandemic and two other host cities having pulled out of the first and second debates over health concerns.
In a statement, Belmont University President Bob Fisher said the university "strongly believes in the importance of these debates to the democratic process, and enthusiastically affirms its intent to host the third and final debate on Oct. 22."
The Belmont debate featuring President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden is scheduled to be held at the university's Curb Event Center.
Citing the involvement of the Cleveland Clinic as health adviser, Fisher said it "gives us even greater confidence that we can host this historic event while keeping the safety of our campus community, the candidates, campaign staffs, members of the press and all other guests as the top priority."
In 2008, Belmont, a private university, hosted a presidential debate between then-Democratic nominee and later president Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.
Belmont's reaffirmation comes amid continued concerns about the virus' upward surge in Tennessee as well as after two other universities in other states withdrew from hosting the first and second presidential debates, citing similar worries.
The latest was the University of Notre Dame, where officials this week announced the South Bend, Indiana, school was dropping out as host of the first presidential debate scheduled for Sept. 29.
Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, said in a news release that "the constraints the coronavirus pandemic put on the event — as understandable and necessary as they are — have led us to withdraw."
As a result, the first debate will now be held in Cleveland, Ohio, co-hosted by Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic, which earlier this year was ranked No. 2 by Newsweek on its list of the world's best hospitals.
Notre Dame's decision follows the University of Michigan's announcement in June that it was pulling out as host of the second debate scheduled for Oct. 15. The Commission on Presidential Debates announced the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami will now host the event.
Fisher said that "at Belmont, we view ourselves as a partner of the Commission on Presidential Debates and are pleased that they were able to quickly secure an alternate location for the first debate. In doing so, the Commission once again demonstrated their commitment to making these important forums available to American citizens. Belmont shares in that commitment."
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