US President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will have their microphones cut off during part of their final debate on Thursday to give each candidate an uninterrupted block of time to speak and avoid the grudge of the two candidates’ first meeting.
The Presidential Debates Commission, the godfather of the televised debate in Nashville, said changes were needed after the first moody debate.
Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden during the meeting in Cleveland on September 29, and the discussion ended with name-calling and insults.
“We realize, after discussions with the two campaigns, that neither campaign can be fully satisfied with the measures announced today,” the committee said in a statement. “We are convinced that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are organized.”
For this week’s 90-minute debate, the organizers will give each candidate two minutes of uninterrupted time at the start of each 15-minute segment of the debate. A NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker will moderate.
“The only candidate whose microphone will be open during these two-minute periods is the candidate who has the floor according to the rules,” the committee said.
Trump’s campaign opposed the change, but said he would still participate.
“President Trump has pledged to debate Joe Biden regardless of last-minute rule changes from the bias commission in his latest attempt to give his favorite candidate an advantage,” Campaign Manager Bill Stepien said .
The commission is a non-partisan body. The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment on the latest developments.
Trump’s camp is also unhappy with the topics proposed Thursday, which include families, climate change and race, arguing that the discussion should focus more on foreign policy.
Biden’s campaign said both sides had previously agreed to let the moderators choose the topics. He said Trump wanted to avoid discussing his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which polls show is the main issue for voters.
“As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs,” said Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo.
Trump, who was admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in early October, withdrew from the scheduled second debate, which was due to take place last Thursday, as it would have been in a virtual format. Instead, the pair broadcast rival town hall sessions.
Just two weeks away from the November 3 presidential election, Biden has a strong lead across the country, although the race is closer in some key states.
More than 30 million people have already voted in advance.