The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday that it will mute microphones at the start of each segment of Thursday night’s debate to ensure both candidates can speak without interruption after President Donald Trump constantly spoke over former vice president Joe Biden the last time.
“We realize, after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today,” the commission said in a statement. “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.”
As was intended in the Sept. 29 debate, each candidate will be given two minutes of uninterrupted speaking time at the beginning of 15-minute segments followed by a period of open discussion. Under the new measure, the candidates’ microphones will be turned off during their opponent’s two-minute slot for each of the six segments to enforce the no interruptions rule already agreed on by the campaigns.
For the remainder of each segment, both microphones will be open, the commission said.
The new rules come just days before the two candidates are set to meet for what would have been the third and final debate of the 2020 election on Thursday night at Belmont University in Nashville. The debate that was scheduled for Oct. 15 was canceled after Trump said he wouldn’t participate in a virtual debate, which had been suggested after he contracted the coronavirus.
Acknowledging the chaos of the first debate that featured multiple bouts of cross talk, personal attacks, and a barrage of interruptions, the commission had said “additional structure” was needed “to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”
“In considering this issue, the Commission is mindful of the distinction between enforcing rules already agreed upon by the candidates and making changes to the rules,” the commission said. “The Commission has determined that it is appropriate to adopt measures intended to promote adherence to agreed upon rules and inappropriate to make changes to those rules.”
Trump’s campaign on Monday said the president was committed to participating in the event despite the rule change.
“President Trump is committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate,” campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement.
Earlier on Monday, Trump’s campaign issued an unusual statement urging the commission to change the topics for the final debate to focus on foreign policy, while also accusing the nonprofit group of trying to “alter the focus of the final debate” in order to protect Biden.
“The Commission’s pro-Biden antics have turned the entire debate season into a fiasco and it is little wonder why the public has lost faith in its objectivity,” Stepien said.
Biden’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.