News & Politics

No, Chris Wallace Couldn’t Mute Trump’s Mic Yesterday


One of the biggest questions out of last night’s shouty debate was about the rules: Why couldn’t moderator Chris Wallace cut off either candidate’s microphones? His insistent parenting voice and pleads of “sir, please,” “sir, I’m the moderator,” “sir, your time is up” obviously couldn’t stop President Trump from interrupting Joe Biden, or any crosstalk that resulted. According to the the Commission on Presidential Debates’ website, the moderator’s role is to “regulate the conversation so that thoughtful and substantive exchanges occur.” To many viewers, it seemed like Wallace could have better regulation had he control over muting the microphones, especially considering the whole evening felt like a Real Housewives episode with no Andy Cohen to handle the immature pettiness.

But that mic-muting stipulation would have needed to be previously agreed upon in debate rules negotiations, according to the New York Times: “On social media, some viewers at home called for the president’s microphone to be shut off, but that was a power Mr. Wallace did not possess: Neither campaign would have agreed beforehand to such a mechanism.”

Could it happen in the future? Doubtful.

The Commission on Presidential Debates did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.