South Carolina Changes Senate Debate Format After Lindsey Graham Refused COVID Test | National

Just hours before Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison and U.S. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham were scheduled to take to the debate stage on Friday (October 9), event organizers changed the format after the incumbent repeatedly refused to take a COVID-19 test.

The move came after Harrison insisted that Graham be tested after he met with other Republican senators who tested positive for the virus. but Graham refused.

The men, instead of a debate, engaged in a series of one-on-one interviews after a day of back-and-forth between the campaigns on Friday (October 9), according to The Associated Press. The two debated last week after Harrison provided his own plexiglass. 

RELATED: Jaime Harrison Tops Lindsey Graham In S.C. Senate Debate…From Behind Plexiglass Shield

During the most recent event, moderators asked Harrison and Lindsey if they supported a national mask mandate. Harrison backed the idea, but Graham said he didn’t see as enforceable, The AP writes. Harrison also suggested requiring coronavirus vaccines for school students, while Graham said he would rely on State Sovereignty, the report says.

The South Carolina Senate race is heating up as Harrison polls in a virtual dead heat with Graham, who has held the seat for nearly two decades.

The race has gotten nationwide attention, not only for how close it is, but from how poignant the debates have been between the two. Before Friday’s event, Harrison asked Graham why he refused to take a COVID-19 test after coming in close contact with Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Graham reportedly provided a letter from a congressional physician informing him that he didn’t meet the official criteria for “close contact” with a person exposed to the disease, therefore he claims he doesn’t need to be tested. He also tried to flip the whole topic on its head by implying that Harrison was looking for excuses not to debate.

In response, Harrison shared Graham’s statement on social media and captioned it, “Why won’t you take the test, Lindsey?”

Further, Harrison called on Graham to “follow the example” of Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump by taking a COVID-19 test ahead of the Friday (October 16) South Carolina debate. He also threatened to not attend if Graham refused to take a COVID test.

“Of course the upcoming debates can be held, and held safely,” he said. “But if Sen. Graham will not take a coronavirus test, I cannot responsibly debate in person tomorrow night and allow politics to put my family, my campaign staff, Sen. Graham’s staff, and members of the media at unnecessary risk.”

For the latest on the coronavirus, check out BET’s blog on the virus, and contact your local health department or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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