Organizers behind the 2020 presidential debates will resort to silencing the president to maintain an “orderly discussion.”
The Commission on Presidential Debates is cracking down on President Donald Trump’s free speech at the final debate on Oct. 22.
The nonprofit revealed it would instruct audiovisual (AV) staff to take turns muting the microphones used by the president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to avoid interruptions and prevent either side from speaking for longer than the other.
“Each candidate is to have two minutes of uninterrupted time to make remarks at the beginning of each 15-minute segment of the debate,” the commission said in a statement shared on Twitter. “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.”
If both the president and Biden are allowed to speak, AV staff will enable both of their microphones.
“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 said. “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.”
If anyone breaks the rule by interrupting the other person, the side who interrupted will be penalized by having less time to speak.
“The moderator will apportion roughly equal amounts of time between the two speakers over the course of the 90 minutes,” the commission said. “Time taken up during any interruptions will be returned to the other candidate.”
The commission rejected any idea that the decision to mute microphones and penalize speakers for interrupting was excessive.
“We realize, after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced,” it said. “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.”
The Trump 2020 campaign expressed dissatisfaction with the stricter rules but agreed to abide by them.
“President Trump is committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last-minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate,” Campaign Manager Bill Stepien said, according to Reuters.