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Wednesday Oct 21 2020

US election 2020: Final presidential debate to feature mute button and Trump is not happy

President Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden pictured during their first debate, on September 29, 2020. — AFP

The final presidential debate, a televised affair due on Thursday, will feature a mute button and US President Donald Trump has protested the move, calling it "very unfair".

According to The Guardian, the 90-minute debate will focus on six segments of 15 minutes each — with questions on American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.

Candidates Trump and Joe Biden will each be allowed two minutes to deliver uninterrupted remarks.

The non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) on Monday announced that “in order to enforce this agreed upon rule, the only candidate whose microphone will be open during these two-minute periods is the candidate who has the floor under the rules”.

Both mics will then be unmuted for open discussion for nine minutes in each segment.

Trump has also called the selection of NBC's Kristen Welker as moderator for the debate as “extremely unfair”.

He tweeted: “She’s always been terrible and unfair, just like most of the Fake News reporters, but I’ll still play the game.”

According to New York Times correspondent Michael M Grynbaum, the moderator will not have control over the mute button.

The first debate between the two, held last month before Trump disclosed that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, descended into chaos with the Republican US president interrupting both Biden and the moderator throughout — at least 128 times.

The second debate, slated for October 15 with a virtual format, was put off after Trump said he feels well enough to resume campaigning and said an online debate would be "a waste of time".

"I'm not going to waste my time on a virtual debate, that's not what debating is all about," Trump said on a phone interview with Fox Business. "You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it's ridiculous and then they cut you off whenever they want."

Although the Trump campaign objected to the change in rules for Thursday's debate, it said the US president would still participate in the event, a last chance to reach a large audience before voting on November 3.