The first presidential debate was argumentative but also focused on substantive issues like the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion, race and healthcare. Moderator Chris Wallace repeatedly admonished the candidates to stop talking over and interrupting each other, accusing President Donald Trump of interrupting more.
“You’re the worst president America has ever had,” former Vice President Joe Biden said at one point. He also called Trump a clown twice and told him to shut up. Trump accused Biden of not being smart, wanting to shut down and destroy the country and doing nothing in 40 years. Trump said he believed in “law and order” but Biden didn’t. Biden said there was “systemic injustice in this country,” and the candidates traded jabs about who would be better for the Black community.
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“The vast majority of police officers are good and decent men and women,” said Biden, adding that there were some “bad apples.” He also said of Trump: “He’s the racist.”
The candidates also attacked each other’s families, with Trump raising questions about Hunter Biden‘s work.
“I am totally opposed to defunding the local police,” said Biden. Trump challenged Biden to name one law enforcement group who has supported Biden. Biden didn’t answer the question.
Trump tried to make the debate about the Supreme Court out of the gate, and Biden tried to make the debate about healthcare in the earliest moments. “I guess I’m debating you, not him, but I’m not surprised,” Trump told Wallace at one point.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Candidates Traded Barbs at Each Other
The debate was unruly, heated and the candidates repeatedly interrupted each other.
“This man doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said Biden of Trump. At another point, he called Trump a “clown.” Biden said, “Keep yapping, man.” Biden also said, “Will you just shut up man?” He also said Trump paid less in taxes than a schoolteacher.
Trump praised Amy Coney Barrett, his Supreme Court nominee, right out of the gate, and he claimed Democrats would do the same thing by nominating a justice before the election if they could. He said Biden would go to “socialist medicine.”
Biden denied this point. “I proposed that we expand Obamacare and we increase it,” Biden said.
“Your party wants to go socialist medicine and socialist healthcare, and they’re going to dominate you, Joe,” Trump said.
“I am the Democratic Party right now,” retorted Biden.
“Not according to Harris,” said Trump.
Wallace brought up the riots in cities. “The violence has been prosecuted,” said Biden. Biden called for the federal government to stay out of the way. Wallace asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacists, but he did not do so.
Under Trump, we’re “weaker, sicker, poorer. more divided, and more violent,” Biden said, calling Trump “Putin’s puppy.”
COVID-19 & Race Also Came Up During the Debate
Biden said Trump has used “everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hate and division.”
He said of Trump and African Americans, “What he did has been disastrous to the African American community.”
Biden called African Americans “super predators” in the 1994 crime bill, said Trump. “I’m letting people out of jail now. You’ve treated the Black community about as bad as anybody in this country. … I’m doing better than any Republican has done in a long time. You saw what they did. You called them super predators and you’ve called them a lot worst than that.”
Biden said 200,000 people have “died under his watch” thanks to his handling of the coronavirus. Trump said people died in the military because they weren’t presented with proper healthcare during Biden’s years in public office.
Biden said the president was opposed to Roe v. Wade. “That’s also at stake right now,” said Biden, saying abortion was on the ballot “in the courts.”
“It’s not on the ballot,” said Trump. “You don’t know her (Coney Barrett’s) view on Roe v. Wade.”
Biden said that Coney Barrett had written that the Affordable Care Act was not constitutional.
Tyler Pager, a Bloomberg reporter, said, “An observation from inside the debate hall: Everyone in Biden’s side of the hall is wearing a mask. More than half on Trump’s side, including his four children, are not wearing masks. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s a requirement that all guests wear masks.” Of Trump’s family in attendance, only Melania Trump was seen wearing a mask during the debate.
Trump said that there was “hatred” during the Obama-Biden administration, mentioning Ferguson, Missouri. Biden called that “absolutely ridiculous.”
“Are you in favor of law and order?” Trump asked. “Law and order with justice where people get treated fairly,” said Biden, saying that violent crime had gone down during the Obama administration.