Trump and Biden Will Be Muted for Parts of Their Next Debate

In an unusual move meant to avoid interruptions like those that marred the first debate, the organizers said they would turn off each candidate’s audio feed while his rival had the floor.

By Michael M. Grynbaum

This time, the candidates will get the silent treatment.

The microphones of President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be muted during portions of the final presidential debate on Thursday, the organizers said late Monday, in an unusual effort to avoid the unruly spectacle of the candidates’ first meeting in Cleveland last month.

The debate’s rules remain the same: Each candidate will be allotted two minutes to initially answer the moderator’s questions. But the Commission on Presidential Debates said it would turn off each candidate’s audio feed while his rival had the floor.

Once each candidate has delivered his two-minute reply, Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, the Democratic nominee, will be allowed to freely engage with each other for the remainder of each 15-minute segment, with both microphones fully functional.

The incoherence of the first debate — during which Mr. Trump’s relentless interruptions of Mr. Biden and the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, derailed the proceedings — put pressure on the nonpartisan debate commission to improve enforcement of the rules, despite its members’ longstanding reluctance to change any aspects of the debates in the middle of a campaign.

The moderator of Thursday’s debate in Nashville, Kristen Welker of NBC News, will not be in control of turning the candidates’ microphones on and off; that task will be left to the commission’s production crew. There is also the potential for a new kind of gaffe: Mr. Trump’s voice may be picked up by Mr. Biden’s microphone, and vice versa, meaning that an attempted interruption may still be heard, at least faintly, by viewers watching at home.

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