President Trump and Vice President Biden held competing townhalls last night in lieu of the second debate. How did it go for both candidates?
- The town halls took place in lieu of a town hall-style second Presidential debate, from which Trump recused himself after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced it would be conducted in a virtual format.
- The announcement of Trump’s town hall on NBC, scheduled at the same night and time as ABC’s town hall with Biden, was met with criticism and outrage from Hollywood.
- Coverage of the two townhalls highlighted the different tones of the two events, with Trump being described as antagonistic and abrasive, while AP reports Biden took a “softer approach” to his event.
- The New York Times opened up their coverage with the controversy over President Trump’s “refusal to condemn white supremacy during the first presidential debate”, despite supporting evidence the President was taken out of context in 2017 in his comments on Charlottesville protests. Factcheck.org investigated and confirmed Trump has repeatedly and specifically condemned white supremacy.
- The coronavirus pandemic was also a major theme of both town halls. ABC News characterized the differences between the candidates as Trump being pro-vaccine and reluctant to wear a mask or enthusiastically endorse the wearing of masks. ABC News reported Biden being skeptical of the possibility of a vaccine by the end of the year, as well as wanting a national mask and vaccine mandate, though admitting it would be difficult to enforce. He said he would work with governors to encourage mandates at the state level.
- Biden was pressed on his hesitancy in staking a position on “court packing”, a subject that has been reported in the wake of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the subsequent nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg. Reuters notes that while Biden said he was “not a fan” of increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court, he didn’t specifically reject it. Biden claims he’ll have a definitive stance by Election Day, citing the current situation with Barrett as a determining factor.
- USA Today reported that neither candidate got off easy in their respective events, with President Trump also pressed on his personal taxes and Biden was confronted by a Black voter on his “you ain’t Black” comment on a radio show earlier this year.
- Members of the New York Times Opinion section gave Biden high marks for his demeanor and lack of fireworks, as opposed to “Trump’s platitudes and chaos.” Frank Bruni called the performance smart, while Michelle Goldberg said Biden was boring “but in a deeply soothing way.”
- Hollywood reacted to the town halls as well, with some celebrities commenting Biden acting like “an adult” who is “actually answering questions”.
- Vox praised NBC host Savannah Guthrie for her tough questions and rebuttal of the President’s answers, saying it was the “interview we’ve been wanting for years.” The Guardian similarly praised Guthrie for her interactions with the President.
- Bianca Rodriguez of Marie Claire collected internet reactions to help those who watched the Biden event rather than Trump that they were “not alone” in making “the right choice for the evening.”
- Much of the reaction on the Right focused on Guthrie as unnecessarily and overly combative, with Fox News’ Sean Hannity commenting NBC News attempted to “ambush” the President during the event.
- Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor declared Trump the winner of a “debate with Guthrie”, mentioning his forceful condemnation of white supremacy. He contests the nature of the event was done to appease the NBC staff who disagreed with the network’s decision to hold an event competing with Biden’s town hall on ABC.
- Media reporter for The Hill, Joe Concha, called the NBC Trump Town Hall “an absolute joke”, specifically with respect to Guthrie’s questions on the denunciation of white supremacy.
- Not all of the focus was on Guthrie and NBC. Breitbart noted Biden was not asked about the recent New York Post reports regarding his son Hunter, and his business dealings in Ukraine and China.
© Dallas Gerber, 2020