Debates panel says changes under consideration 'to ensure a more orderly discussion'

Organizers are considering changes for the next two debates between President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE after their first meeting Tuesday night descended into chaos. 

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a bipartisan body that helps plan and execute the quadrennial meetings between presidential and vice presidential contenders, said Wednesday that the messiness of the first debate made clear that changes need to be made to make the next event more “orderly.”

“The Commission on Presidential Debates sponsors televised debates for the benefit of the American electorate. Last night’s debate 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 CPD will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly,” the group said in a statement. 


“The Commission is grateful to Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceAbbott promises to hire Border Patrol agents punished by Biden administration DHS secretary says Haitian migrant crisis is 'nothing new' Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed MORE for the professionalism and skill he brought to last night’s debate and intends to ensure that additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates,” the group added, referring to Tuesday's moderator, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who struggled to keep the discussion on track Tuesday night.

The remarks come as the debate drew a flood of criticism from media figures and lawmakers alike who said the invective-filled affair was a mess.

“That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,” CNN’s Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperGottheimer: 'No reason' why Democrats shouldn't pass infrastructure bill right away Frederica Wilson rails against Haitian deportation flights, calls treatment 'inhumane' WHIP LIST: How House Democrats say they'll vote on infrastructure bill MORE said. “That was the worst debate I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t even a debate. It was a disgrace and primarily it was because of President Trump, who spent the entire time interrupting, not adhering to the rules he agreed to.”

Trump and Biden tangled with each other throughout the night, with the president often refusing to let his opponent answer Wallace’s questions uninterrupted.

At one point, Trump mocked the former vice president’s intellect and performance in college. 


“You graduated either the lowest or almost the lowest in your class. Don’t ever use the word smart with me,” Trump said. “Don’t ever use that word. Because you know what? There’s nothing smart about you, Joe. Forty-seven years you’ve done nothing.”

Biden a number of times grew exasperated with Trump, at one point telling him to “shut up.”

The president also engaged in a number of back-and-forths with Wallace, particularly after the moderator urged Trump to allow Biden to answer his questions uninterrupted for two minutes, per the rules both campaigns agreed on before the debate.

“Mr. President, I’m the moderator of this debate and I’d like you to let me ask my questions,” Wallace said at one point. 

“I guess I’m debating you, not him,” Trump fired back. “I’m not surprised.”


The rancor of the debate grew so intense that some observers suggested there be no more debates. There have been no indications that the upcoming meetings will be scrapped, and Biden’s campaign has insisted the former vice president will attend the two remaining scheduled debates.

When asked on the campaign trail what changes could be made for upcoming debates, Biden said that there should be an emphasis on ensuring that only one candidate can answer a question at a time.

“I just hope there’s a way in which the debate commission can control the ability of us to answer the question without interruption. I’m not going to speculate what happens in the second or third debate. My hope is they’re able to literally — say the question is asked of Trump, here’s a microphone, he has two minutes to answer the question. No one else has the microphone. I don’t know what the rules will be … but I’m looking forward to it,” he said. 

Trump's campaign, meanwhile, accused the CPD of trying to change the rules to benefit Biden.

“They’re only doing this because their guy got pummeled last night. President Trump was the dominant force and now Joe Biden is trying to work the refs. They shouldn’t be moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign's communications director.

Trump and Biden are scheduled for two more head-to-head meetings on Oct. 15 and Oct. 22. Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisNavarro rips 'dimwit' Trump Jr. on 'The View' for COVID-19 and obesity tweet Do progressives prefer Trump to compromise? Biden, Harris push big lie about Border Patrol MORE (D-Calif.), Biden’s running mate, will have their sole debate on Oct. 7.

--Updated at 3:26 p.m.