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Debate commission co-chair defends muting microphones: 'Not a new rule'

Debate commission co-chair defends muting microphones: 'Not a new rule'
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The Commission on Presidential Debates’ co-chair on Tuesday defended the panel’s decision to mute the presidential candidates' microphones during their opponent’s two-minute opening answers to topics. 

Frank Fahrenkopf told Brian Kilmeade on Fox News Radio that the commission did not change the rules of the debate with its Tuesday announcement on muting microphones. He argued that President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE and Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE’s campaigns already agreed that each candidate’s opening statement on each topic would be uninterrupted. 

“It’s not a new rule,” Fahrenkopf said. “The campaigns agreed early on, going back to June of this year when we announced what the formats were going to be for the … debates. And they both agreed to live with it.

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“It provides, very clearly, that the first four minutes on each of the six segments — each candidate gets to speak for two minutes without interruption,” he added. “So that’s the rule. And that’s been the rule.”

Kilmeade butted in, saying “But you’ve never killed audio, right?”

The commission’s co-chair said they haven’t muted microphones before, but both candidates “violated” the debate rules during the first debate last month.

“We’re not changing a rule,” Fahrenkopf said. “All we’re doing is saying you’ve already agreed to no interruptions for that two minutes on each of the six segments, and therefore when someone starts speaking, gets their two minutes, the other microphone is gonna be turned off until the two minutes are up, then the other person gets it. That’s it.”

Fahrenkopf said outside of the two-minute openings for each candidate, the debate will remain open microphone. 

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The commission’s decision announced Tuesday was sparked after September’s debate featured the candidates frequently talking over one another.

“We thought that something had to be done, not to change the rules for this debate, but to make sure the American people get to hear what went on,” he said.

The Trump campaign expressed disapproval for the commission’s announcement, but said the president would still participate "regardless of last minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate.”

The final debate is scheduled for Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. It was supposed to be the third between the candidates, but Trump refused to participate when last week’s debate was moved to a virtual format because of his positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Both candidates instead held dueling town halls.