Bill Clinton greets Melania Trump before the start of the second presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri on October 9, 2016. (Getty/Paul J. Richards)

Bill Clinton probably won't shake Melania Trump's hand during the final presidential debate

Meanwhile, the guest list remains personal

Matthew Rozsa
October 19, 2016 8:08PM (UTC)

Like the last presidential debate, which started with a bout of pre-debate psychological warfare, Wednesday night’s third presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump will feature guests intended to poke the presidential candidates. But unlike the last debate, there may not be even the smallest hint of decorum.

Not even their spouses will be shaking hands.


Bill Clinton and Melania Trump will forgo the traditional pre-debate handshake between family members, following a request that the Clinton campaign made, according to sources, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

The spouses’ refusal to shake hands follows the candidates’ cold reception to each other. Before the last debate, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump didn’t shake hands, setting the tone for the ugly night that followed.


The Clinton campaign made its no-handshake request for Melania and Bill in response to the Trump campaign’s unsuccessful attempt to seat three women — who had accused the former president of sexual misconduct — in the Trump family box. If the Trump campaign’s gambit had worked, Bill Clinton would have been forced to confront Juannita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones on national television. Trump even foreshadowed this plan by holding a press conference with Clinton’s three accusers mere hours before the debate began.

This time Trump has invited Patricia Smith, whose son Sean died at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi — in an attack that many conservatives have blamed at least in part on Hillary Clinton, who was the secretary of state at the time.

Clinton, on the other hand, is bringing two business leaders who have been outspoken critics of Trump: billionaire Mark Cuban and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, a Republican who ran for Governor of California in 2010 and recently renounced Trump and announced that she would be voting (and fundraising) for Hillary Clinton.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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2016 Presidential Debates Bill Clinton Donald Trump Elections 2016 Hillary Clinton Melania Trump

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