Final presidential debate will have muted microphones

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced new rules intended to allow the candidates to speak uninterrupted

By Gene Maddaus
October 20, 2020 1:22AM (UTC)
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President Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first of three planned debates between the two candidates in the lead up to the election on November 3. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on Variety.


The Commission on Presidential Debates announced new rules on Monday intended to allow the candidates to speak uninterrupted at the final debate on Thursday.

Under the new rules, each candidate will have two minutes to address each of six topics. For that period of time, his opponent's microphone will be muted.


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The change comes in response to the first debate, which descended into chaos as President Trump insulted Joe Biden and argued with moderator Chris Wallace. According to a Fox News analysis, Trump interrupted 145 times in 90 minutes, while Biden interrupted 67 times.

Earlier on Monday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said it would be "completely unacceptable" for anyone to be enabled to mute the candidates.


"[A] decision to proceed with that change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debate over to the Commission which has already demonstrated its partiality to Biden," Stepien wrote.

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The debate will be divided into six segments, covering COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership. Each topic will have a two-minute opening from each candidate, followed by an open exchange between the candidates. The microphones will not be muted for the latter portion.


"During the times dedicated for open discussion, it is the hope of the Commission that the candidates will be respectful of each others' time, which will advance civil discourse for the benefit of the viewing public," the commission said in a statement.

NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker will be the moderator.


The commission acknowledged that the campaigns are not happy with the change.

"We realize, after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today," the commission wrote. "One may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough. We are comfortable that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held."

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The Trump campaign has also complained about the topics, saying the debate should be devoted to discussion of foreign policy, which the campaign feels would allow for a fuller exploration of Hunter Biden's business activities. Trump himself has also complained about Welker, calling her a "radical left Democrat" during an appearance in Arizona on Monday.

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