Mute button, masks headline final Trump, Biden debate
New York, October 23, 2020
It's so 2020. Not to be outdone by a housefly on US Vice-President Mike Pence's mop of white hair and a transparent plexiglass partition which rocked the Kamala Harris-Mike Pence debate, the mute button has now officially entered the annals of US presidential debate history in the year of a pandemic.
Through the 90-minute final presidential debate on Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee, a mute button, described as "unfair" by US President Donald Trump, cut off interruptions for the initial two minutes of each candidate's opening remarks.
Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden faced off with a microphone muzzle which cut off interruptions. The small technical affordance was a big change for the audience and moderator Kristen Welker, the NBC News White House correspondent, who was on the biggest stage of her news career.
Welker is the first Black woman to moderate a presidential debate since Carole Simpson in 1992.
The debate commission had decided on the muzzle earlier this week, after sharp criticism of the messy cross talk in the first presidential debate and moderators' inability to keep the candidates fenced in.
For Trump, the mute button is the antithesis of everything he has stood for. It's not something he likes but he bent to its quieting influence today. He grimaced and shook his head but that's the best he could do -- a stark contrast to the raucous opening debate nearly a month ago.
The presence of masks was another remarkable visual from the final debate.
This comes after the Trump White House became a Covid-19 cluster this month. This time, Melania Trump, who was appearing in public for the first time since her virus diagnosis, was wearing a mask.
Before the debate began, the Commission reminded the audience about what happens if the masks come off; "If you won't leave, you'll be escorted".
Trump bookended his performance rapping India, China and Russia for their "filthy" air quality.
He was responding to questions on climate change with some wild Trumpisms.
Meanwhile, Biden leads Trump in national polls by 9.9 points, according to FiveThirtyEight poll average and 7.9 points in the RealClearPolitics poll average.