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Features & Columns

Mics of Biden and Trump Will Be Muted in Debate, Trump Eventually Agrees

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Mics of Biden and Trump Will Be Muted in Debate, Trump Eventually Agrees

2020-10-20 15:28:10

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump, Joe Biden (Image source: Screenshot)

With such disparity between the two candidates in the 2020 presidential race, it's hard to believe there are still some people who are undecided, yet these people do remain. They need the presidential debates to help them decide. The last one, though, helped no one, as Donald Trump spent the entire time talking over Joe Biden, with the former vice president getting in a few licks as well.

The Commission on Presidential Debates is setting out to make this second and final debate different. It was intended to be the third debate, but Trump refused to participate in the debate that would have been held just days after he was hospitalized with COVID-19, as the commission insisted it would need to be virtual.

The mics of the two candidates will be muted during their first two minutes of responding, but it will turn into an open debate after those initial two minutes.

While at first Trump and his campaign were making statements that made it appear he wouldn't be participating in the debate without specific rule changes, Trump said on Monday, "I'll participate, I just think it's very unfair."

A source close to the commission said the decision to mute the mics was unanimous by the members. The source also noted that "this is not a change of rules but rather a move to promote adherence to rules that have been agreed to by both campaigns."

"A change to the rules would have required protracted and ultimately, in our view, unworkable negotiations between the two campaigns." added the source.

Regardless of whether it's just a move to enforce rules that had already been agreed to, the Trump campaign is still trying to flex its muscles and make sure any changes are favorable to the president.

Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director, accused the commission of an "attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate." Yet, he said in a statement that the president is still "committed to debating Joe Biden."

"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."

There will still be plenty of chances for Trump to interrupt the moderator and Biden. Each candidate will be given two minutes at the beginning of each section to answer the question. For the remaining time in the segment, the mics will be open.

"Under the agreed-upon debate rules, each candidate is to have two minutes of uninterrupted time to make remarks at the beginning of each 15-minute segment of the debate. These remarks are to be followed by a period of open discussions," said the commission in a statement.

"Both campaigns this week again reaffirmed their agreement to the two-minute, uninterrupted rule," the statement continued, "for the balance of each segment, which by design is intended to be dedicated to open discussion, both candidates' microphones will be open."

The commission went on to describe how it hopes the candidates "will be respectful of each other's time, which will advance civil discourse for the benefit of the viewing public." Additionally, the commission noted that "time taken up during any interruptions will be returned to the other candidate."

Biden had pushed for a rule change, noting that the way Trump behaved during the first debate was a national embarrassment." He added that he hoped there would be "a way in which the debate commission can control the ability of us to answer the questions without interruptions."

The Trump campaign was upset about the prospect of changes. Murtaugh said in a statement that after the first debate, the commission "shouldn't be moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game."

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien took a similar stance as his colleague. "It is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power, and a decision to proceed with the change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debates over to the commission which has already demonstrated its partiality to Biden," he wrote.

The Trump campaign also had a problem with debating the topics of COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security, and leadership.

"We urge you to recalibrate the topics," wrote Stepien in a letter. He never indicated Trump would pull out, however, because of the change in topics.

TJ Ducklo, Biden spokesman, released a statement that said of the Trump campaign's numerous complaints, "The campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics. The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous COVID response. As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs." 

The two candidates will meet on the stage again on Thursday night.

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