The microphones Joe Biden and Donald Trump would be muted during portions of the second and final presidential debate on Thursday, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Monday.
The decision came after the commission met 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.
The decision on muting the microphones was unanimous by its members and stressed that “this is not a change to rules but rather a move to promote adherence to rules that have been agreed to by both campaigns.”
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.
“I’ll participate. I just think it’s very unfair,” Trump said when asked by reporters about the change on Monday.
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 statement 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.”