US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will have their microphones muted during portions of the second and final presidential debate which is scheduled for Thursday night, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Monday, according to CNN.
The decision came after the commission met Monday afternoon to discuss potential rule changes to the debate format. They decided that the changes were needed because of how the first debate between Biden and Trump devolved into chaos.
The first debate was widely criticized as lacking substance and being unwatchable, thanks to the repeated exchanges of insults between Trump and Biden and their attempts to speak over each other.
The muting will work like this: At the start of each of the six segments of the debate, each candidate will be given two minutes to answer an initial question. During that portion, the opposing candidate's microphone will be muted.
"Under the agreed upon debate rules, each candidate is to have two minutes of uninterrupted time to make remarks at the beginning of each 15 minute segment of the debate. These remarks are to be followed by a period of open discussion," the commission said in a statement quoted by CNN. "Both campaigns this week again reaffirmed their agreement to the two-minute, uninterrupted rule."
"The Commission is announcing today that in order 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. For the balance of each segment, which by design is intended to be dedicated to open discussion, both candidates' microphones will be open," added the statement.
Both microphones will be unmuted after each candidate delivers their two-minute answer.
"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," the statement reads. "As in the past, the moderator will apportion roughly equal amounts of time between the two speakers over the course of the 90 minutes. Time taken up during any interruptions will be returned to the other candidate."
Trump has in the past indicated he would not agree to any rule changes for future debates, after the commission said it planned on adding "additional structure" following the first one.
The commission acknowledged in Monday’s statement that the change is likely to anger the Trump campaign and the President himself.
"We realize, after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today," the statement read. "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 second presidential debate, which was scheduled to take place last week, was cancelled after Trump bowed out of it when the Presidential Debate Commission announced it would be held online instead of in person in the wake of Trump's coronavirus diagnosis.
Instead of that debate, Trump and Biden held town hall events in which they responded to questions from voters. These events both took place at the same time and aired on different television networks.