Former US Vice President Joe Biden and US President Donald Trump announced that their speakers will be muted during parts of the second and final presidential debate Thursday evening, the Presidential Debating Committee announced Monday in a decision likely to anger Trump.
The decision came after the committee met on Monday afternoon to discuss possible rule changes in the format of the discussion. They decided the changes were necessary because of how the first debate between Biden and Trump had turned into a mess, with the president repeatedly boycotting the former vice president.
The change will certainly anger Trump and his campaign, who have hinted that any changes to the procedures would be unacceptable to them, as the commission acknowledged in its statement.
“We are aware, after discussions with both campaigns, that either campaign may be completely satisfied with the measures announced today,” the statement said. “One might think that they are going too far, and some might think that they have not gone too far. We are comfortable that these measures strike the right balance and are in the interest of the American people, to whom these discussions are held.
Muting will work as follows: At the beginning of each of the six parts of the discussion, each candidate will be given two minutes to answer an initial question. During this portion, the opposing candidate’s microphone will be muted.
“Under the agreed rules of debate, each candidate must have two minutes of uninterrupted time to make observations at the start of each 15-minute segment of discussion. These observations will be followed by an open debate period.” The current situation. “Both campaigns this week reaffirmed their agreement to the two-minute rule without interruption.”
The statement continued: “The commission announces today that in order to implement this agreed rule, the only candidate who will open his microphone during these two periods is the candidate who has the word according to the rules. Open the candidates’ microphones.
Both microphones will be unmuted after each candidate submits their two-minute answer.
“During the times designated for open debate, the committee hopes that the candidates will respect each other’s time, which will advance the civil discourse in the interest of the public,” the statement said. “As in the past, the mediator will allocate approximately equal intervals of time between speakers over the course of 90 minutes. The time spent during any interruptions will be returned to the other candidate.”
The committee’s second presidential debate was canceled after Trump refused to participate in a hypothetical contest, a change made due to his positive coronavirus diagnosis.
After the first discussion, the committee did not specify what changes it would introduce, but its statement at the time said that they intend “to ensure that additional tools are in place to maintain order in the remaining discussions.”
The committee was also set to certify that both Trump and Biden had met the 15% polling threshold needed to qualify for debate at Monday’s meeting.
Biden made it clear that he wanted the debate committee to change the rules, and said that the way Trump acted in the first debate was a “national embarrassment.”
“I just hope there is a way in which the panel can control our ability to answer questions without interruption,” Biden said the day after the first discussion.
The Trump campaign had previously opposed any rule changes. The campaign communications director, Tim Murtaugh, told CNN in a statement after the first debate that the committee “should not move the rules of the goal and change the rules in the middle of the game.”
In a letter to the committee on Monday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stephen earlier described silencing the candidates’ microphones as “unacceptable.”
“It is completely unacceptable for anyone to exercise such authority, and the decision to proceed with this change amounts to transferring more editorial control over the debate to the committee, which has already demonstrated its bias towards Biden,” Stephen wrote in a statement released before. The campaign agreed to the change.
He also disagreed with the topics announced for discussion on Thursday for not focusing more on foreign policy. The committee announced last week that the topics would be “fighting Covid-19”, “American families”, “race in America”, “climate change”, “national security” and “leadership.”
“We urge you to reset the topics,” wrote Stephen. Stephen has never indicated that Trump will pull out of the third debate if the change is not made.
Biden spokesman TJ Daclo responded to the Trump campaign’s complaint, saying in a statement, “The campaigns and the commission agreed months ago that the moderator would pick the topics. The Trump campaign is lying about it now because Donald Trump fears facing more questions about his disastrous response to COVID. As usual, the president is more interested in the rules of discussion than in providing a nation in crisis with the help it needs.
This story and its title have been updated as the committee changes the rules for debate and comments from the Trump and Biden campaigns.