Debate Commission Vows to Change Format

Donald Trump and Joe Biden during the first Presidential Debate on Sept. 29, 2020
(Image credit: Screengrab/ABC News)

While signaling Fox News' Chris Wallace had tried his best, the Commission on Presidential Debates said Wednesday it would change the format for the remaining debates--two presidential, one vice presidential.

That followed the Sept. 29 debate moderated by Wallace that devolved into a series of personal attacks and the President consistently talking over his opponent. The commission sponsors the televised debates.

"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 commission said. "The CPD will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly."

It ended with a nod to Wallace, who was criticized for not keeping the President's outbursts better in check but also drew lots of sympathy for what most conceded would have been a herculean feat had he accomplished it: "The Commission is grateful to Chris Wallace for the professionalism and skill he brought to last night’s debate and intends to ensure that additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates."

In a joint memo to staffers, Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace also had Chris Wallace's back. 

"We'd like to take a moment to thank and congratulate Chris Wallace for moderating last night's extraordinary debate," they said. "We are extremely proud of his professionalism, skill and fortitude in a unique situation while doing everything possible to hold both candidates accountable. No moderator could have managed a debate of that magnitude better than Chris."

CNN Political Analyst Bakari Sellers may have put it best when he said he felt sorry for Wallace as he attempted to "comb through the chaos" to find a debate. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.