Debate Commission Co-Chair Defends Mic Muting Rule: ‘Both Parties Agreed’

US President Donald Trump gestures after the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM W... US President Donald Trump gestures after the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
October 20, 2020 6:54 p.m.

The co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates on Tuesday defended the non-partisan organization’s decision to mute microphones during certain portions of the final presidential debate this week, which President Trump has deemed as “very unfair.”

Appearing on MSNBC on Tuesday afternoon, CPD co-chair Frank Fahrenkopf said that the organization made the decision in an effort to enforce rules that both the Trump and Biden campaigns previously agreed to.

On Monday, the CPD announced that it would mute both Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s microphones while their rival delivers initial and uninterrupted two-minute answers on each of the six topic questions at the final presidential debate set to take place in Nashville.

The CPD issued its mic muting decision after Trump’s disastrous debate performance last month. On Sept. 30, the CPD wrote in a statement that the first debate — which was widely panned after Trump hijacked it by frequently interrupting both Biden and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News — “made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”

Fahrenkopf told MSNBC on Tuesday afternoon that “both parties agreed before the first debate and also agreed again before the second.”

Fahrenkopf then acknowledged that “it’s easy to see those rules were not followed” during the first presidential debate “even though they’d agreed to.”

Fahrenkopf argued that “we didn’t create a rule” by implementing the mic muting measure in the final presidential debate.

“We didn’t touch the rules,” Fahrenkopf said. “All we did is put in a situation where if someone is interrupting, they won’t be allowed to interrupt.”

Fahrenkopf pointed out that once the presidential candidates complete their initial two minutes responding to a debate topic, the mics are on during the rest of the time dedicated to that particular topic, which he hopes will play out with “a little more civility” compared to last month’s presidential debate in Cleveland.

Earlier Tuesday, the CPD refuted the President’s complaint that the nonpartisan organization is enacting “pro-Biden antics” just days before his final presidential debate against Biden. In a scathing letter issued to the CPD on Monday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien griped about the absence of foreign policy as one of the six topics selected for the final presidential debate, which were chosen by moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News. Trump has waged attacks against Welker in the days leading up to her moderation duties during the final presidential debate.

Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel apparently launched her crusade against the non-partisan CPD as well on Tuesday as she derided the organization for its decision to mute mics during portions of the debate.

Watch Fahrenkopf’s remarks below:

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.
Latest News
Comments are now Members-Only

Non-members are still able to read comments, but will no longer be able to participate. To join the conversation, sign up now and get:

30% Off Annual Prime Membership

TPM strives to build as inclusive a community as financially possible. We offer FREE memberships to those experiencing financial hardship and FREE memberships for students.

View all options
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: