November 26, 2020

Election debate officials are considering muting candidates mics, report says, after Trump interrupted 71 times in the chaotic first round

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The election debate commission is considering allowing debate moderators to switch off speakers’ microphones to avoid repeating the chaos of Tuesday’s debate, according to the Associated Press (AP)

The commission said Wednesday that it was considering “additional structure” for upcoming debates, “to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”

An unnamed person familiar with the plans told the AP that mic-muting was among the measures being discussed.

During Tuesday’s debate, moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News repeatedly asked President Donald Trump stop interrupting as discussion fell apart in acrimonious crosstalk. 

When Trump said Wallace should also be asking former Vice President Joe Biden not to interrupt, Wallace said: “Well, frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting than he has.” 

Wallace was correct, according to a count by The Washington Post, which said Trump made 75% of the interruptions that night — 71 out of 90 instances.

At one stage, Biden said to Trump: “Would you shut up, man?”

Tim Murtaugh, Trump’s campaign director, accused the commission of favoring Biden, whom he termed “their guy.” The commission describes itself as non-partisan, and has run election debates since the 1980s.

He said the commission was “only doing this because their guy got pummeled last night. President Trump was the dominant force and now Joe Biden is trying to work the refs.”

The fracas was so chaotic it caused international astonishment. US stock futures fell in the aftermath. 

Wallace later told The New York Times he “never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did.”

But he foresaw problems with a plan to mute either candidate.

Wallace said: “Even if the president’s microphone had been shut, he still could have continued to interrupt, and it might well have been picked up on Biden’s microphone.”

“It still would have disrupted the proceedings in the hall,” he told the paper.

The next presidential debate, on October 15, will take a town hall format and will be moderated by C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully.