World

Final Trump-Biden debate will feature ‘mute’ button

New rule to mute microphones so candidates can speak uninterrupted

WASHINGTON : The final debate between US President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden will feature a mute button to allow each candidate to speak uninterrupted, organisers said on Monday, looking to avoid the disruptions that marred the first match-up.

In the first debate last month, Mr Trump interrupted Mr Biden 71 times, compared with the former vice-president interrupting Mr Trump 22 times, the news site Axios reported.

The Trump campaign voiced objections to the change, but said the Republican would still take part in tomorrow night's (US time) event, one of his last chances to reach a large prime-time audience before voting ends on Nov 3.

The Commission on Presidential Debates said each candidate's microphone at the debate in Nashville, Tennessee, would be silenced to allow the other to make two minutes of opening remarks at the beginning of each 15-minute segment.

Both microphones will be turned on to allow a back-and-forth after that time.

"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 favoured candidate," campaign manager Bill Stepien said.

Mr Stepien said Mr Trump was planning to raise a number of allegations regarding Mr Biden's son Hunter.

UNHAPPY

More than 30 million Americans have already cast their ballots, limiting Mr Trump's chances of re-framing a contest that national and state opinion polls show him trailing.

Mr Trump backed out of a second scheduled debate set for last Thursday over a disagreement about the virtual format following his Covid-19 infection.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Trump's campaign said it was unhappy with the announced set of topics for tomorrow's debate, arguing that it should focus more on foreign policy and asserting that the non-partisan group was tilted towards Mr Biden.

"I will participate, but it's very unfair they changed the topics and it's very unfair that again we have an anchor who's totally biased," Mr Trump said.

Mr Biden's campaign said both sides previously agreed to let moderators choose the subjects. It said Mr Trump wanted to avoid discussing his stewardship of the coronavirus pandemic, which surveys show is the top issue for voters.

"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," Mr Biden's spokesman T.J. Ducklo said.

Ms Kristen Welker of NBC News, a respected White House reporter, is slated to anchor the debate. - REUTERS, AFP

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