The Commission on Presidential Debates on Monday said candidates will have their microphones muted to allow the other to speak uninterrupted at the start of each segment of Thursday’s presidential debate.
In a statement Monday, the commission said President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will only have their mics muted during the two-minute opening remarks at the beginning of each 15-minute segment and they will remain on for the open discussion portions of the debate.
“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 commission said.
Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said it was “completely unacceptable” for an “unnamed person” to be granted the ability to cut off the candidates’ microphones, in a letter to the commission earlier Monday.
The commission’s statement did not mention the ability to mute a candidate’s microphone to stop interruptions during the open debate section and moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News will still be tasked with ensuring each candidate has adequate time to speak.
“We realize, after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today,” the commission said. “One may think they go too far and one may think they do not go far enough. We are comfortable these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the best interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held.”
Trump’s campaign also criticized the topics selected by Welker, which include fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership, citing a lack of focus on foreign policy.
“As is long-standing custom and has been promised by the Commission on Presidential Debates, we had expected that foreign policy would be the central focus of the October 22 debate,” Stepien wrote. “We urge you to recalibrate the topics and return to subjects which had already been confirmed.”
Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo accused Trump of being “more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs,” in a statement to CBS News.
Stepien said that Trump was prepared to take part in the debate “regardless of last-minute rule changes.”
Trump declined to participate in the second debate scheduled to take place last week after the commission proposed a digital event in light of the president contracting COVID-19. Trump and Biden instead held competing town hall events on the night the debate was scheduled.
The third presidential debate is set to take place on Thursday at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.
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