Presidential Debate Commission to Add ‘Tools to Maintain Order’

The stage for the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden in Cleveland, Ohio, September 28, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The presidential debate commission says it will add new “tools to maintain order” during the remaining two debates after a hectic first meeting between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

The announcement came on Wednesday, one day after the first presidential debate, which the group said “made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”

The commission has floated the idea of allowing the moderator to cut off the microphone of one of the candidates while his opponent is speaking during the next presidential debate, which is scheduled for October 15 in Miami, according to the Washington Post. That debate, moderated by Steve Scully of C-SPAN, will take a town hall format where citizens can ask questions, which may prevent interruptions.

Tuesday’s debate was fraught with frequent interruptions as the candidates attempted to speak over each other and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. According to the Post, the candidates interrupted Wallace or their opponent 90 times during the 90-minute debates. The paper attributed 71 of those interruptions to Trump.

Wallace repeatedly tried to reign in the candidates, begging for a more controlled debate.

At one point he told the president, “the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I’m appealing to you, sir, to do that.”

“Ask him, too,” Trump said.

“Well, frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting than he has,” Wallace responded.

While Biden called the debate a “national embarrassment,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh accused the commission of taking action only “because their guy got pummeled last night. President Trump was the dominant force and now Joe Biden is trying to work the refs.”

Some supporters of the president and even some of Wallace’s Fox News colleagues accused the moderator of being too hard on Trump.

“Trump is debating the moderator and Biden,” Fox News’ Laura Ingraham tweeted during the debate.

However, Geraldo Rivera, also of Fox News, was kinder to Wallace, saying, “The guy signed up to moderate a debate and he ended up trying to referee a knife fight.”

The debate drew 73.1 million viewers, more than any other television event since the Super Bowl, according to the Nielsen company. Tuesday night’s debate did not, however, match the viewership of the first debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 — the most-watched presidential debate ever — with 84 million viewers.

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