Debate Commission admits mic affected Trump’s audio

(from Los Angeles Times and New York Times) — Almost immediately after Monday’s presidential debate, Donald Trump complained he was saddled with a “defective mic.” Now, the Commission on Presidential Debates is acknowledging some technical difficulties with Trump’s audio.

The Commission put out a statement Friday that read, in its entirety: “Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump’s audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall.”

The statement likely will raise more questions than settle them. There’s no detail on what was the audio issue and what exactly was the impact for the live audience. It also makes no mention of the effect, if any, on sound levels for television viewers. Around 84 million people tuned in to watch Monday’s faceoff, a record for a presidential debate.

The Commission did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

The Commission, a nonprofit organization that sponsors the presidential debates, released no other information about the malfunction, including how it was discovered, which equipment was to blame, or why the problem was admitted to only on Friday, four days after the debate.

Reached by phone, a member of the commission’s media staff said she was not authorized to speak about the matter.

Some members of the audience, held at Hofstra University in New York, said in interviews that the amplification of Mr. Trump’s voice was at times significantly lower than that for Mrs. Clinton. And at times Mr. Trump appeared to be hunching down to get his face closer to his microphone.

Zeke Miller, a reporter for Time Magazine who attended the debate, mentioned the difference on Monday in a report to the traveling press pool for Mr. Trump. From his vantage point [in the debate hall], Mr. Miller wrote, Mr. Trump was sometimes “a little quieter” than Mrs. Clinton.

In an interview, Mr. Trump said he had tested out the audio system two hours before the event and found it “flawless.” Only during the debate did he notice the problem, Mr. Trump said, and he tried to compensate by leaning down more closely to the microphone. He complained that the changing volume had distracted him and alleged again that someone had created the problem deliberately.

“They had somebody modulating the microphone, so when I was speaking, the mike would go up and down,” Mr. Trump said. “I spent 50 percent of my thought process working the mike.” He had wanted to pause the debate to address the problem, Mr. Trump said, but felt he could not. “How can I stop the show if I had 100 million people watching?” he said.

Compiled from reports at the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.


1. What assertion did Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump make right after the first presidential debate last Monday (September 26th)?

2. a) What is the Commission on Presidential Debates?
b) What acknowledgment did the Commission make on Friday regarding Mr. Trump’s assertion?

3. What details about Trump’s audio malfunction did the Commission not provide, according to the NY Times and LA Times reporters?

4. a) When asked for clarification by reporters, how did the Commission respond?
b) Why do you think it took four days for the Commission to acknowledge there was a technical problem with Mr. Trump’s audio?
c) The Commission has not provided details to explain the statement they released and has not yet answered reporters questions. Regardless of your like or dislike for Donald Trump, how important do you think this is to a transparent and fair election process? Explain your answer.

5. Recently, two Stanford University Ph.D. candidates examined campaign finance reports and found that of the $5,650 in contributions that the debate commission members have made to presidential candidates during this election season, 100% went to Mrs. Clinton. Republican Donald Trump received no donations from debate commission members. Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who both learned the Friday before the debate that they were not eligible to participate, also received no donations from commission members.

Mr. Trump was widely mocked in the media and by late-night talk show comedians for repeatedly making a “sniffling” noise during the debate, of a “having a bad case of the sniffles.” When interviewed the day after the debate, Mr. Trump said, ”No, no sniffles. You know, the mic was very bad, but maybe it was good enough to hear breathing. But no sniffles. No cold.”

Watch the video under “Resources” below. How does it sound to you? Do you think the mic picked up the sound of Trump’s breathing more than is typical or did he have the “sniffles” as the media have asserted? Explain your answer.

6. Mic .com is a media company that targets millennials. The company says the website has a higher composition of 18- to 34-year-old readers than any other millennial-focused news site, including BuzzFeed and Vice.

Following the debate, Mic questioned Trump’s assertion, writing:

“So was it a ‘very bad’ mic? We asked an expert who said: ‘The professional audio community has largely been dismissive of the possibility of a mic problem. …There’s no evidence of technical problems with the microphones.’

a) The Commission on Presidential Debates has admitted that there were audio issues. What do you think: was the audio issue a deliberate malfunction to negatively affect Donald Trump in favor of Mrs. Clinton, or just a unfortunate coincidence? Explain your answer.

b) Did hearing Mr. Trump’s breathing as he was responding to questions negatively affect your view of Trump? Explain your answer.

c) Ask a parent to answer questions 5 and 6. Discuss your answers.


  • The presidential debate at Hofstra University was the first of three to take place before the end of October.
  • The vice presidential debate between Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine will be held on Tuesday, October 4th
  • The second presidential debate between Trump and Clinton will be held Oct. 9 in St Louis, Missouri.
  • The third and final presidential debate is on October 19th in Las Vegas.

NOTE:  Check out Student News Daily’s Presidential Election Page, which includes a Presidential Debate Worksheet for students.

Presidential Debate Commission — board member political contributions:

  • The Commission on Presidential Debates sponsors and produces debates for the U.S. presidential and vice presidential candidates and undertakes research and educational activities relating to the debates.
  • The organization, which is a nonprofit corporation controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties, has run each of the presidential debates held since 1988.
  • Presidential Debate Commission Co-Chairman Michael McCurry, who was White House press secretary under former President Bill Clinton, wrote a $250 check to Hillary Clinton’s campaign on the day she announced she was running on April 12, 2015. Dating to her time running for the U.S. Senate in New York, Clinton has received a total of $5,650 from McCurry for her campaigns.
  • Commission board member and business executive Richard Parsons chipped in $2,700, to go along with a $1,000 contribution he made to Clinton’s Senate re-election campaign and $1,000 to Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign. He also has spoken to the Clinton Global Initiative, according to the Stanford study.
  • Commission board member Antonia Hernandez, president and CEO of the California Community Foundation, contributed $2,700 to the Clinton campaign in April of last year.
  • Commission board member Shirley Tilghman has made no campaign contributions, but the report notes that she appears in a video entitled “Hillary Fan” and has praised the Democratic nominee’s leadership in speeches delivered at Princeton University.
  • As detailed by the Stanford study, some members of the commission have been generous to Republican candidates in the past. Co-Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf, for instance, donated to both George W. Bush and John McCain, and he has given tens of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party. But neither he nor any other commission member has given a dime to Trump.
  • The parties created the debate commission in 1987 to set the terms for presidential debates. The commission established a threshold of 15 percent support in at least five major polls for a third-party or independent to make it onto the stage. The commission announced the Friday before the first debate that Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson had failed to hit that target.
  • Both campaigns cited a poll indicated that 76 percent of voters wanted all four candidates to participate. (from Wikipedia and Lifezette)
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