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US prez debate: Mute button brings civility as Trump, Biden show restraint

Under the new rules, Trump and Biden each had two minutes of uninterrupted time to speak at the beginning of every 15-minute segment of the debate. A media report termed the mute button a godsend, saying it also amplified the candidates' differences.

By: PTI | Washington | October 23, 2020 3:59:49 pm
President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP)

The mute button, or at least the threat of it, worked well this time as US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden showed restraint and civility during the last presidential debate, unlike their first encounter when they frequently spoke over each other, creating chaos at times.

Far from their raucous first meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, that led organisers to introduce the mute button, the second and final 90-minute debate between Trump and Biden at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday night was less fury and more urgency.

In the first presidential debate last month, Trump, 74, and Biden, 77, fiercely clashed over a number of issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, economy and climate, marked by angry interruptions and bitter accusations.

A media report termed the mute button a godsend, saying it also amplified the candidates’ differences.

On Monday, the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced new rules under which it will mute microphones for two minutes of the rival speakers so as to give them uninterrupted opening remarks during the final debate.

The decision to mute microphones comes after a chaotic first presidential debate that saw the two candidates interrupting each other repeatedly.

The final debate was moderated by NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker.

Under the new rules, Trump and Biden each had two minutes of uninterrupted time to speak at the beginning of every 15-minute segment of the debate. Both campaigns had agreed to the two-minute, uninterrupted rule.

The mute button was under a member of the production crew who works for the Commission on Presidential Debates. The person was responsible for turning off the microphone.

A member of each of the Trump and Biden campaigns monitored the person who controlled the mute button backstage.

As hoped by the commission officials, the button allowed for a more civilised exchange of views.

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