‘Outnumbered’ panel discusses potential mute button at next presidential debate
President Trump on Thursday pushed back against the idea of possible changes to future debates with Democratic nominee Joe Biden after the Commission on Presidential Debates suggested it could modify the rules and format — and some Democrats even floated that the next showdowns include a “mute button.”
“Why would I allow the Debate Commission to change the rules for the second and third Debates when I easily won last time?” Trump tweeted Thursday.
The president’s tweets come amid a back-and-forth between the commission and both the Trump and Biden campaigns.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., this week suggested a “mute button” would be necessary for another debate to take place. “Maybe we should give the moderator a mute button, given how President Trump just interrupts at will,” Schumer said a day after the first debate. “And the bottom line is Donald Trump doesn’t follow the rules [and] the commission has got to get a lot tougher.”
Sources close to the negotiations between the commission and the campaigns told Fox News that the Biden campaign’s debate negotiator, Brady Williamson, specifically requested a “mute button” be allowed for the next presidential debates.
One source said that Williamson’s request was made Wednesday morning, just hours after the first showdown. The source said that the request was made in front of at least two dozen witnesses.
Shortly after the meeting, the source said, the commission released a statement, saying that they are now “carefully considering” changes to the format of the remaining debates. The CPD is sponsoring two more debates for Trump and Biden, one on Oct. 15 in Miami, Fla., and one on Oct. 22 in Nashville, Tenn. A vice presidential debate is set for Oct. 7.
But Williamson, in a short phone interview with Fox News Tuesday, denied that he made the request.
“It is probably a rumor, but it is not true,” Williamson told Fox News.
When asked if he suggested a mute button in a joking way, Williamson said: “No.”
But the Trump campaign, on Thursday, fired back, saying that the campaign “can’t deny” the request was made.
“The Biden campaign knows their guy had a lousy performance and so now they’re running to the commission to try to get the rules changed,” Trump campaign Communications Director Tim Murtaugh told Fox News. “They can’t deny it because the request was made by their lead negotiator in front of plenty of witnesses.”
Murtaugh added: “They really should ask for a mute button for Joe Biden because he’s really the biggest threat to himself.”
Meanwhile, the Biden campaign also denied that Williamson requested a mute button while taking aim at the Trump campaign and the president.
“There is as much truth to this as the other weak lies the Trump campaign told in advance of the first debate–before Donald Trump exposed his own record on the pandemic as a failure, told the violent white supremacists to ‘stand by,’ and cratered,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates told Fox News.
Bates was referring to a report from prior to the debate that the Biden campaign had requested multiple breaks during the first presidential debate, which stated that the president’s reelection campaign wanted the Biden campaign to allow a third party to inspect the ears of each debater for electronic devices or transmitters. The president has consented to this kind of inspection, but a source said the Biden campaign has declined the ear check.
Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, called the Trump campaign’s request “absurd” in a call with reporters. She also denied the claim that the campaign had asked for breaks.
But Thursday, to mock the Trump campaign, Bates said: “From a place of equivalent seriousness, we understand that the Trump campaign insisted Donald Trump be four inches taller for the next debate, and that he exclusively take questions from active 4Chan users–none of which could be about the coronavirus.”
The commission, on Wednesday, after Tuesday night’s debate in Cleveland, Ohio, which included repeated interruptions and both candidates hurling charges and insults at each other, said they are considering adding “additional structure” to the format.
“The Commission on Presidential Debates sponsors televised debates for the benefit of the American electorate,” the CPD said in a statement Wednesday. “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 commission added that it will be “carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly.”
“The commission is grateful to Chris Wallace 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 commission said of the Fox News anchor, who moderated the debate.
Both candidates interrupted each other frequently. According to a Fox News analysis, Biden interrupted Trump 49 times and Wallace 18 times for a total of 67 times. Trump, meanwhile, interrupted Biden 71 times, Wallace 74 times for a total of 145 times, according to the analysis.
The debate got personal right out the gate Tuesday night with the former vice president calling Trump “the worst president America has ever had” and Trump saying that there is “nothing smart” about Biden.
Leading up to the debate, sources close to the Biden campaign told Fox News that the former vice president wouldn’t engage in personal attacks or respond to any insults leveled against him by Trump.
But Biden, within the first half of the debate, slammed the president as a “liar” and a “clown” and repeatedly called on him to “shut up.”
“Would you shut up, man?” Biden said to Trump, calling him “unpresidential.”
Later, Biden cut Trump off again, saying: “Will he just shush for a minute?”
Meanwhile, the president slammed Biden, saying the former vice president is not “smart.”
“Don’t ever use the word smart with me,” Trump said. “Nothing smart about you Joe.”
The president, when asked about his campaign rallies, said that Biden doesn’t hold events because “nobody shows up to his events.”
“People want to hear what I have to say,” Trump said.
The debate shifted to taxes. Biden vowed to repeal the “Trump tax code,” and the president cut him off questioning why he didn’t propose a better tax plan during his “47 years” in Washington.
“Because you weren’t president screwing things up,” Biden said. “You’re the worst president America has ever had.”