Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will have their microphones muted during portions of the second and final presidential debate on Thursday night, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Monday in a decision that angered the President.
Following the first debate, the commission did not specify what changes they would be making, but their statement at the time said they intended "to ensure that additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates." The commission's second presidential debate was canceled after Trump declined to participate in a virtual contest, a change that was made because of his positive coronavirus diagnosis.
How will the muting work? At the start of each of the six segments of the debate, each candidate will be given two minutes to answer an initial question. During that portion, the opposing candidate's microphone will be muted. "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 discussion," the commission said in a statement. "Both campaigns this week again reaffirmed their agreement to the two-minute, uninterrupted rule."
The commission continued, "The Commission is announcing today that in order to enforce this agreed upon rule, the only candidate whose microphone will be open during these two minute periods is the candidate who has the floor under the rules. For the balance of each segment, which by design is intended to be dedicated to open discussion, both candidates' microphones will be open."
Both microphones will be unmuted after each candidate delivers their two-minute answer. "During the times dedicated for open discussion, it is the hope of the Commission that the candidates will be respectful of each other's time, which will advance civil discourse for the benefit of the viewing public," the statement reads.
"As in the past, the moderator will apportion roughly equal amounts of time between the two speakers over the course of the 90 minutes. Time taken up during any interruptions will be returned to the other candidate."
The decision came after the commission met Monday afternoon to discuss potential rule changes to the debate format. They decided that the changes were needed because of how the first debate between Biden and Trump devolved into chaos, with the President frequently interrupting the former vice president.
"I'll participate. I just think it's very unfair," Trump said when asked by reporters about the change on Monday. Still, the change drew a quick rebuke from Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh who charged, without evidence, that the decision from the commission is an "attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate." But Trump, Murtaugh said in a statement, is still "committed to debating Joe Biden" regardless of the change.
NBC’s Kristen Welker is slated to moderate the final presidential debate between Trump and Biden next Thursday. The 90-minute debate will take place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, at 9:00PM EST and will almost certainly be the candidates’ last time sharing a stage before the presidential election on November 3rd, 2020.
Last week Welker raised a few eyebrows for deactivating her Twitter account after C-SPAN’s political editor Steve Scully admitted to lying about having his Twitter feed hacked. Scully, who was scheduled to moderate the now-cancelled second debate, was criticized for an exchange he had with former Trump aide, Anthony Scaramucci. After Scully admitted to lying about his Twitter account being hacked, Welker appeared to have reactivated her account.
Welker began her reporting career in 2005. She joined NBC News in 2010, based in Burbank, California. She began covering the White House for the station in 2011. Her reporting has appeared on NBC News and MSNBC, including “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt,” “TODAY”, “Meet the Press”, and NBCNews.com.
Courtesy of CNN, NBC and Independent UK