NEW YORK — The presidential debate commission says it will soon adopt changes to its format to avoid a repeat of the disjointed first meeting between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

The commission said Wednesday the 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.”

One possibility being discussed is to give the moderator the ability to cut off the microphone of one of the debate participants while his opponent is talking, according to a person familiar with the deliberations who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The next presidential debate is a town hall format scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami.

Moderator Chris Wallace struggled to gain control of Tuesday’s debate in Cleveland because of frequent interruptions, primarily by Trump. The candidates interrupted Wallace or their opponent 90 times in the 90-minute debate, 71 of them by Trump, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Wallace, of Fox News, pleaded for a more orderly debate, at one point looking at Trump and saying, “the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I’m appealing to you, sir, to do that.”

“Ask him, too,” Trump said.

“Well, frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting than he has,” Wallace said.

Biden on Wednesday called the debate “a national embarrassment.” But despite some suggestions that the final two presidential encounters be canceled, both campaigns said they expected their candidate to attend.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said the commission was “only doing this because their guy got pummeled last night. President Trump was the dominant force and now Joe Biden is trying to work the refs.”

ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, who moderated one of the three debates between Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016, said Wallace was put in nearly an impossible situation. Faced with the same behavior, she said she might have called a full stop to the debate for a moment to recalibrate.

She never had the option, technically, to cut off the microphone of a candidate four years ago, she said. It also wasn’t in the rules that were agreed to in advance by the candidates and commission.

“To say, ‘He’s not going to follow the rules so we aren’t, either,’ It’s an unprecedented situation,” Raddatz said. “That was so out of control.”

Twitter was ablaze with criticism for Wallace early in the debate for losing control of the proceedings. That was illustrated by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, who tweeted “What is Chris Wallace doing? He has no control over the debate. He asks a question and let’s Trump continue yelling. This is a disgrace.”

By the time he was on “Morning Joe’’ the next morning, Scarborough had cooled off. He called on the debate commission to act.

“While it was extraordinarily frustrating, I think all of us need to walk a mile in his shoes before saying the morning after, ‘He could have done this, he could have done that,’” Scarborough said.

Some of the president’s supporters felt that Wallace was too hard on their candidate. Trump himself suggested he was also debating Wallace, “but that’s no surprise.”

Wallace even got some criticism from opinion personalities on his own network. “Trump is debating the moderator and Biden,” prime-time host Laura Ingraham tweeted during the debate.

Another Fox colleague, Geraldo Rivera, expressed more sympathy.

“The guy signed up to moderate a debate and he ended up trying to referee a knife fight,” he said.

Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday,” was not immediately made available for comment by Fox.

There is some skepticism about what the commission can do that is really meaningful. “I’m not sure that there’s a format change that can solve that problem,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, Republican, of battleground state Pennsylvania.

Wallace is the only presidential debate moderator this cycle with prior experience, after receiving praise for handling the final Clinton-Trump debate in 2016. The other two moderators are Steve Scully of C-SPAN and Kristen Welker of NBC News.

Scully moderates the Miami debate, a town hall format where citizens get to ask questions, which may make interruptions more difficult.

“Having prepared for these, the town hall is a completely different event in the debate Olympics,” tweeted David Plouffe, an adviser to former President Barack Obama. “If Trump brings the same nastiness to Florida, it will be doubly painful to watch but it will be doubly painful for him politically.”

The Nielsen company’s estimate on how many people watched Tuesday’s debate was expected later Wednesday.


Associated Press writers Bill Barrow, Laurie Kellman and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

(22) comments


Pull a Darth Vader from the original Star Wars movie: use the force to choke Trump when he gets out of control.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Darth Vader

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope


Moderators should have been able to have the ability to cut off the microphones years ago. Every presidential debate is the same with candidates interrupting and shouting, whether it's two of them or ten, and a lot of time is wasted because of it. Cut them off and maybe they'll learn to be civil. I doubt if anyone got much out of the train wreck two nights ago because of how BOTH of them acted.


A train wreck "...........because of how BOTH of them acted"?????? Untrue and sad, cd, but worthless to engage at this point.


Mrs M - CD has too much of himself invested in Trump. It takes guts to admit mistakes.


Biden's conduct during this debate was completely consistent with his conduct during the primary debates. Biden is largely respectful of the debate rules, he listens to the statements of others, he thinks before he speaks, and he largely acts like the experienced, intelligent, decent gentleman that he has proven himself to be. Trump acted like an out-of control, desperate and ignorant buffoon. An embarrassment to our country in the face of the world, to think he bears the title of Commander in Chief of the United States.


OK MRS M, now would you please tell me just what my support of the president has to do with your opinion mattering no more than anyone else's? Or, are you simply deflecting, again, because you know I'm right and you can't argue it?


Yes, MRS M, because of how BOTH of them acted. And just because you don't agree with me does NOT make your opinion "true" and mine "untrue." You seem to forget that your opinion matters no more than anyone else's does. I suggest you make an effort to grow up and accept that fact.


And I suggest, CD, that you awaken from your self-imposed stupor and the hysterical blindness you are (quite sadly) experiencing, all underwritten by the approach of November and your supreme dedication to FoxStateTV, Hannity, and your besties on facebook. Look, we recognize that you're heavily invested in defending the malignancy occupying the White House, but........................

Oh nevermind, CD. Have at it in these last gasping weeks "of the (Trump family) empire ....... and good luck.


Biden was no where near as bad as Trump but he has his moments ... "Why don't you just shut up?" was one. When Trump got out of hand Biden should have said somthing along the lines of "I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person and since you can't control yourself I will ignore you and just answer the questions and make my case to the public." Then he should have asked Wallace to enforce the rules. Bidens reactions were just fuel for Trumps fire. Ignore him and you disarm him and make him irrelevant because he'd have to talk issues.


Just curious CD ,if Biden would have remained quiet as he did the first of the multitude of times Trump stepped all over his time, would you not have gloated and touted how weak Biden was ? While tere were a few instances of his talking over,what would you expect when someone lies and tries to dominate? Be real.


Stand by, CD. Stand by.


With some hearing loss, it was hard to follow the words even with the captions on, so I missed Bidenz repudiation of his intent to pack the Supreme Court. I did hear him say Antifa is just an idea. It was funny to watch him try to distance himself from the Green New Deal when his support of it is posted on his website and contained in the Bernie-Biden manifesto - also posted on his website. I did hear him say that he is the Democrat party, in an effort to distance himself from the radical left socialists. Not sure about what he said about defunding the police - is that a go or no go this week.

I did hear Trump say "sure" when the third debater - Chris Wallace - asked him if he would disavow white supremacists. I also caught it when Trump said he had accomplished more in 47 months than Biden has in 47 years. Zing.

I hope the next debate is less like a WWF match.



Trump said “sure” that he would do it — but then he didn’t do it. A drunk might say, “Sure, I’ll quit drinking.” Would you give the drunk credit for the “sure” while he downs another shot?

What did you think of Biden’s cognitive abilities?


"With some hearing loss" -- you should get that checked because the things in your post were not evident or part of the debate I watched and heard.


What parts?[ninja]


See 1:39 post - don't feel the need to go step by step to refute because it is a lost cause. Facts don't matter, tapes of conversations don't matter, TV clips don't matter to you.


Lucky Bosco! This could actually explain ALOT about Bosco's comments in 'lo these many years, implying he may not heard what Trump was actually saying all along, and give him believable "cover" when he jumps off the side of Trump's sinking ship into the deep, sad, miserable end of regret. But, at least he'll be jumping. ( PS. Vote for America and those socialist programs you've come to appreciate, Bosco (like Medicare and Social Security). Vote for Joe Biden!)


Antifa statement -


Was that news article part of the debates? What did Biden say about Antifa during the debate?



Earlier condemnation - and at the debate


No CD, Trump’s behavior was out of control. The worse he gets the worse his supporters look. Get a clue, Trump or America, vote for America CD.


CD, Your take on this resembles someone looking at 2 people, one of whom weighs 200 pounds and the other who weighs 600 pounds, and saying, “They are BOTH overweight.”

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