Donald Trump has pushed back against proposed rule changes to the remaining two presidential debates that would allow moderators to cut off a candidate’s microphone.
“Why would I allow the Debate Commission to change the rules for the second and third debates when I easily won last time?” the US President tweeted on Thursday.
He earlier wrote, “I won the debate big, based on compilation of polls etc. Thank you!”
It comes after the Commission on Presidential Debates said it would add more “structure” to prevent a repeat of Tuesday night’s trainwreck, which saw Mr Trump frequently talk over Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Mr Biden responded with his own interruptions and insults, as debate moderator Chris Wallace struggled to keep the pair under control and frequently argued with the Republican.
After the debate, the Trump campaign complained about Wallace’s performance, saying the moderator only interrupted Mr Biden 15 times while interrupting Mr Trump 76 times.
A Fox News analysis, meanwhile, found both candidates interrupted each other and the moderator frequently.
Mr Biden interrupted Mr Trump 49 times and Wallace 18 times for a total of 67 interruptions, according to the analysis, while Mr Trump interrupted Mr Biden 71 times and Wallace 74 times for a total of 145.
The CPD said in a statement on Wednesday it would “ensure that additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates”, reportedly among which would be a mute button.
“Last night’s 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,” the group said.
“The CPD will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly.”
Mr Trump on Wednesday responded on Twitter to the rule change suggestion by saying, “Try getting a new Anchor and a smarter Democrat candidate!”
His campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement that “they’re only doing this because their guy got pummelled last night” and that “they shouldn’t be moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game”.
Some Democrats have demanded the rule changes and even suggested calling off the remaining debates.
“Maybe we should give the moderator a mute button, given how President Trump just interrupts at will,” Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday. “And the bottom line is Donald Trump doesn’t follow the rules (and) the Commission has got to get a lot tougher.”
In a media call on Thursday, Trump campaign lead debate negotiator Max Miller claimed the “mute button did come up” at the request of the Biden camp.
Mr Miller said the Biden campaign had requested “opening and closing statements, cut down on open discussion and a mute button”, according to reporters on the call.
Trump campaign sources told Fox News the request was made by Biden campaign debate negotiator Brady Williamson on Wednesday morning. The CPD issued its statement about rule changes shortly afterwards.
In a statement, Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates denied those claims.
“There’s as much truth to this as the other weak lies the Trump campaign told in advance of the first debate – before Donald Trump exposed his own record on the pandemic as a failure, told violent white supremacists to ‘stand by’, and cratered,” he said.
“From a place of equivalent seriousness, we understand that the Trump campaign insisted Donald Trump be four inches taller for the next debate, and that he exclusively take questions from active 4Chan users – none of which could be about the coronavirus.”
But the Trump campaign hit back, saying the Biden camp “can’t deny” the request was made.
“The Biden campaign knows their guy had a lousy performance and so now they’re running to the commission to try to get the rules changed,” Mr Murtaugh told Fox News on Thursday.
“They can’t deny it because the request was made by their lead negotiator in front of plenty of witnesses.”
Experts were split on who won the first debate but most agreed neither man came off well.
An Ipsos/FiveThirtyEight poll found only about one-third of viewers rated Mr Trump’s performance as “good”, while two-thirds rated it “poor”.
Around 60 per cent said Mr Biden performed well.
Speaking at a campaign stop the next day, Mr Biden described Mr Trump’s behaviour as a “national embarrassment”.
“I just hope the American people and those undecided voters try to determine what each of us has as an answer for their concerns,” he said.
Mr Trump, meanwhile, told supporters at a rally in Duluth, Minnesota on Wednesday that he “took the fight to Biden” in the debate.
“The verdict is in and they say that we, all of us won big last night,” he said.
The next CPD-sponsored debate is scheduled for October 15 in Miami, Florida, followed by October 22 in Nashville, Tennessee, with a vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris set for October 7.
The second debate is set to be moderated by C-SPAN host and producer Steve Scully, while the third will be moderated by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker.
Some of Mr Trump’s supporters including Senator Ted Cruz have leapt on the fact that Scully worked for Mr Biden when he was 18 years old.
Others on social media resurfaced a 2016 tweet by Scully, linking to a New York Times opinion piece with the headline, “No, Not Trump, Not Ever”.