The united state presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden witnessed crossed harsh words in their first 2020 presidential election debate.
The debate, which lasted for 90 minutes, was held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday night.
Moderated by Chris Wallace, a 72-year-old Fox News anchor with over 50 years of experience in political reporting, the presidential candidates debated on topics hand-picked by the moderator.
The topics addressed include, the US supreme court; COVID-19 outbreak; the economy; race and violence in US cities; Trump and Biden’s records as president and vice-president respectively; climate change; and the integrity of US election.
Rather than engage in civil arguments during the debate, the candidates resorted to verbal attacks and accusations, cutting each other with offensive words.
Wallace struggled to maintain control between the heavyweights as he repeatedly called Trump to order for speaking over Biden and for disregarding the established rules both sides had agreed to. Here are the highlights of the debate:
A major feature in the face-off between Trump and Biden is the series of interruptions and verbal attacks between both candidates.
Trump warned Biden against comparing him on the basis of intelligence and accused the democratic candidate of graduating among the lowest in his class at university.
“Did you use the word smart?” The president asked Biden during the debate. “You graduated either the lowest or almost the lowest in your class. Don’t ever use the word smart with me, Joe.”
On his part, Biden described Trump as the worst US president, accusing him of poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and of fueling racial divisions.
He also called the president “Putin’s puppy,” referring to Vladimir Putin, Russian president.
“You are the worst president America has ever had. This is a president who has used everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred, racist division,” he said.
“Under this president, we have become weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided and more violent. I am not here to call out his lies, everybody knows he is a liar.”
During the debate, it appeared Trump’s objective was to rattle Biden by constantly interrupting the former vice-president. A report by CBS News said Trump cut in on Biden a total of 73 times during the debate.
“The people understand Joe. For several years you have done nothing,” Trump said while interrupting Biden in his speech.
In return, Biden asked the president to shut up, describing him as a clown. “Will you shut up, man?” he said.
“Folks, do you have any idea what this clown is doing? It’s hard to get any word in with this clown,” he added.
Biden took a jab at Trump during a section of debate on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US.
The United States remains the worst-hit as it accounts for one in every five COVID-19 patients that have died. The country has reported over 205,031 deaths.
The former vice-president said Trump had no plans to curb the spread of the virus. He said the president needs to be smarter to prevent more COVID-19 deaths in the US.
“The president has no plan. He hasn’t laid out anything. He knew all the way back in February how serious this crisis was,” he said.
“He (Trump) panicked or he just looked at the stock market, one of the two. And guess what? A lot of people died and a lot more are going to die unless he gets smarter.”
In defence, Trump blamed China for the US COVID-19 deaths.
“If we would have listened to you (Biden), the country would have been left wide open. Millions of people would have died, not just 200,000. It is China’s fault, it should have never happened,” he said.
“This guy will close down the whole country and destroy our country. We don’t need someone that will come in and say let us shut it down.”
ACCUSATIONS, HIDDEN TAXES, AND FAMILY MATTERS
Biden taunted Trump over a New York Times report which said the president only paid $750 in federal income tax in 2017 — the year he assumed office.
“This guy paid a total of $750 in taxes,” he said.
But Trump responded saying his tax returns are under audit by the IRS since the 2016 election, adding that it will be made public when the audit is completed.
“I paid millions of dollars in taxes. Millions of dollars in income tax,” he said.
Trump also went after Hunter, Biden’s son who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was in office.
The president alleged that Hunter made millions of dollars, and that the former vice-president’s son received money from the former mayor of Moscow.
Biden refuted the claim, insisting that his son did not receive millions of dollars from the former Moscow mayor.
‘IT WILL BE A FRAUD LIKE NEVER BEFORE’ — TRUMP REFUSES COMMITMENT TO ACCEPT ELECTION RESULTS
During the debate, Trump refused commitment to accept outcome of the US presidential election scheduled for November 3.
The president had made negative remarks about the mail-in voting system which will be used.
Trump promoted theories that there was an ongoing voting fraud, despite the dismissal of the claim the FBI which said there is currently no evidence of any effort to coordinate voter fraud.
“As far as the ballots are concerned, it’s a disaster. This is going to be fraud like you’ve never seen,” Trump said.
“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen.”
When asked he if would accept the outcome of the poll, Biden responded positively.
“Yes. The fact is, I will accept it, and he will too,” he said.
“We’re going to make sure that the people who want to vote in person are able to vote. This is all about trying to dissuade people from voting because he’s trying to scare people into thinking that it’s not going to be legitimate.
“He cannot stop you from being able to determine the outcome of the election. If we get the votes, it’s going to be all over.”
FUTURE OF REMAINING PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES
This is the first of the three scheduled debates between both candidates. Trump and Biden are expected to go at it again in Miami on October 15.
But reacting to the debate on Wednesday, Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia politics expert, described it as the worst ever seen.
Sabato said he has never seen anything like it in his six decades of watching presidential debates.
“I have watched every presidential debate live since 1960. Never has there been a worse performance than Trump’s. He imploded,” he said.
“The other presidential debates in October should be cancelled. You cannot have a civil debate if Donald Trump is on the stage.”
But Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, told reporters after the debate that the former vice-president will honour the next debate against Trump.
She said the next debate will be conducted in a town-hall format and that questions will come from undecided voters.
“He is going to continue speaking directly to the American people. There is an open question here based on what we saw from Donald Trump tonight,” she said.
“Is he going to try to bully actual voters? Is he going to insult his way through the next debate? Joe Biden is going to show up. We will see if Trump decides to show up in Miami next month.
“We are going to the debates, guys. We don’t know how many different ways we can say it. Yes, we are going to the debates.”