Tuesday night's first face-off between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was far from orderly.
What You Need To Know
- The debate format allowed candidates to interrupt during specific portions, but it continued throughout the entire 90-minute running time
- The interruptions made a constructive discussion of serious issues virtually impossible
- Despite moderator Chris Wallace's attempts to rein in the candidates, the debate devolved into a free-for-all
"I'm in that group of people that thinks it was a disaster," said Sam Nelson, Cornell University director of speech and debate.
"It wasn't a particularly pleasant debate for sure," said Scott Thomson, a debate coach at Ithaca College.
"In my estimation as a person that's taught debate for over 30 years, at the university level, this was the worst presidential debate by far. And the reason why, there was no respect for each other," Nelson said.
Although candidates were allowed to interrupt in some portions, it continued throughout the 90 minutes.
"The format favored Trump tremendously," said Thomson. "I think that that was very dangerous and foolish for Biden to agree to because it did create a situation where Trump was able, institutionally like he was allowed to interrupt in those situations because both of them had the floor."
The rules weren't being followed, which made moderating difficult for Chris Wallace.
"They weren't doing what they had agreed to do before the debate started. And so [Wallace's] hands were a bit tied," said Nelson.
"A colleague of mine said, ‘let's put them into soundproof boxes and only turn on their microphones when they're allowed to speak,’ but the various camps would never agree to that," said Thomson.
Nelson says the goal of the debate is for viewers to learn something and that wasn't the case on Tuesday night.
"If the two people that represent the two most important political parties in the United States can't have a civil debate, what hope do the rest of us have," said Nelson.
The Commission on Presidential Debates says it is adding structure to the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion.