Republican chairman Frank Fahrenkopf of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) defended the new rule that will cut mics during the debate to minimize interruptions.
“This is not a new rule, the campaigns agreed early on going back to June,” Fahrenkopf told Fox News host Brian Kilmeade on “The Brian Kilmeade Show.” “Both agreed to live with it. It provides clearly that for the first four minutes of each of the six segments that each candidate gets to speak for two minutes without interruptions.”
“They both violated that rule,” Fahrenkopf continued. He said that the commission didn’t believe it could change any rule without both campaigns agreeing, but noted they’d already agreed not to interrupt for the first four minutes of each segment.
Fahrenkopf said the rest of the debate would be open microphones.
DEBATE COMMISSION SAYS IT WILL MUTE TRUMP, BIDEN WHILE OPPONENT TALKS
The CPD announced Monday it would mute President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden during the initial two-minute response times allotted to their opponents at the debate Thursday in Nashville.
Also included in the debate will be an open discussion forum that won’t include the mute option. Thursday’s debate will consist of six 15-minute segments, totaling 90 minutes in all as in the first debate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested a “mute button” would be necessary for another debate to take place. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., however, has argued a mute button would be giving the moderator too much power.
The candidates faced backlash for their interruptions during the first debate, and after Trump was diagnosed with coronavirus, the second debate was moved to a virtual setting. The Trump campaign would not agree to a virtual setting and the two candidates instead hosted townhalls.
The muting rule drew scrutiny from the Trump campaign, which urged the commission earlier in the day to include more discussion of foreign policy in the next debate.
“President Trump is committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last-minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate,” read a statement from campaign manager Bill Stepien.
In response to the Trump campaign’s push for a greater foreign policy focus, the Biden campaign accused Trump of being unprepared to address his COVID-19 response.
TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENDS LETTER TO DEBATE COMMISSION ASKING FOR MORE FOCUS ON FOREIGN POLICY
“The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous COVID response,” the campaign said. “As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs.”
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But Ali Pardo, deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, told Fox News that “[o]ver the past several months, the CPD [Commission on Presidential Debates] verbally confirmed on multiple occasions that the third debate would have a foreign policy focus.”
Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.