Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump participated in competing town halls Thursday night.
Biden’s 90-minute town hall was moderated by political commentator George Stephanopoulous in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and broadcast by ABC. Trump’s town hall was moderated by Today Show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie in Miami, Florida, and broadcast by the NBC network.
Biden answered questions from voters about the U.S. response to COVID-19, Black voters, Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination and fracking.
At Trump’s 60-minute long event, he was asked questions about topics such as COVID-19, abortion, immigration, Barrett's Supreme Court nomination and the economy. Trump's town hall featured fewer questions from the audience than Biden's event as Guthrie spoke to him for about the first 20 minutes before opening the floor to voter questions.
At the beginning of the town hall, after being prompted by Guthrie, Trump said he could not remember if he was tested before the previous presidential debate.
“Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t,” Trump said. “But I was in great shape for the debate.”
Biden said Trump knew how dangerous the pandemic was in February but failed to tell the American people.
“Americans don’t panic, he panicked,” Biden said.
Biden said the U.S. could contain the pandemic withouth wrecking the economy with social distancing, equipment, testing, contacting tracing and other appropriate measures.
Trump said he was “good with masks” but also said many people who are wearing masks are also catching COVID-19. He never said he believed masks were effective at preventing spread.
“I’ve heard many different stories on masks,” Trump said.
Biden said if scientists confirm a vaccine is ready, he would take it and encourage others to as well. However, most scientists say a vaccine isn’t likely until next year, he said.
Biden said whether or not he mandates a vaccine depends on the nature of the vaccine, when it comes out and how it’s distributed.
Biden said he plans to raise corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy, meaning Americans who make more than $400,000 a year.
The Biden administration’s plan to improve the economy will create more jobs than Trump’s, Biden said. He said he will invest money into green infrastructure and American-made products.
Regarding corporate tax rates, Trump said he supported lower corporate tax rates because he believes it encourages companies to move to America, which creates more jobs. Trump said he believes that if Biden raises the tax, companies will move away.
“Companies are pouring into our nation because of the tax rate,” Trump said. “They’re coming in because we reduced the taxes.”
Trump also confirmed he has about $400 million in debt but claimed that it was all in real estate and the debt was small compared to the amount of money he has. He also said he would specifically name who he owed money to, but never actually listed any names or organizations.
“It’s a tiny percentage of my net worth,” he said.
Trump also said the reports released that indicated he paid only $750 in federal income tax were not accurate.
He claimed multiple times that the U.S. economy was the best it had ever been before the COVID-19 pandemic, something that was refuted by the New York Times.
Biden responded to a question about what he would say to young Black voters who see voting for him as participating in a broken political system.
“If young Black women and men vote, you can determine the outcome of this election” he said.
Biden said he plans to reform the criminal justice system, implement earlier education for Black Americans, introduce school psychologists to the education system, provide resources for mental illness and more.
Biden said he made a mistake in supporting the 1994 Crime Bill. He said he thinks instead of punishing individuals for drug use, there should be mandatory rehabilitation and he wants to decriminalize marijuana.
Biden said he believes more cops will reduce crime and community policing will help to lower crime rates as well. He said he thinks chokeholds need to be banned, cops should be subject to psychological tests and de-escalation training.
“Most cops don’t like bad cops,” he said.
Trump claimed he has done for the Black community than any other president besides Abraham Lincoln, citing his work in prison reform, criminal justice reform and the funding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Also, in response to a question from Guthrie about why he didn't directly denounce white supremacy at the previous presidential debate, Trump said he has denounced it for years. He also said he denounces antifa and the far left that he claimed were "burning down cities."
"You didn't ask Joe Biden whether or not he denounced antifa," Trump said.
The Supreme Court nomination
Biden said he thinks Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett failed to lay out specific judicial policy during her nomination hearings.
The Constitution implies the American people have the right to determine who is on the Supreme Court through voting for the president and senators, Biden said. He said he is not a fan of court packing but is open to considering options depending on how the nomination is handled.
“Presidents come and go, justices stay and stay and stay,” he said.
Biden said he would reveal his stance on expanding the Supreme Court before the election.
Trump also discussed the Supreme Court nomination, saying he should be able to nominate a justice because he serves for four years,not three. He also said the Democrats would also attempt to nominate someone if they were in the same position.
Even though in 2016, Trump said former President Barak Obama should not nominate a justice eight months before the presidential election. Trump said his ideas about this changed after the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“The whole ball game changed when I saw the way they treated Justice Kavanaugh,” Trump said. “I have never seen a human being treated so badly.”
Trump did not directly address whether he supported the overturning of Roe v. Wade or not. He said he hadn’t talked to his Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett about it privately and didn’t want to talk about it on air because he didn’t want to influence her.
“I think it would be inappropriate to say right now,” Trump said.
Biden said he will not ban fracking, but will work toward implementing renewable energy. He said his goal is to have net zero emissions of carbon from energy creation by 2035 and wants to invest in electric vehicles to cut back oil usage as well.
“We have to use our imaginations,” he said.
Trump was not asked any questions on climate change.
Mieke Haeck, a mother of two girls, one of whom is transgender, asked Biden how he will reverse the discriminatory agenda the Trump administration has implemented and how he will ensure the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Biden said he will change the law and eliminate executive orders Trump has signed which inhibit the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Trump was not asked about LGBTQ+ rights at his town hall.
Trump said while DACA and the DREAM Act are working right now, he is in the process of negotiating different aspects of immigration law.
He also said the U.S. has now built more than 400 miles of border wall.
“We have the strongest border we have ever had,” Trump said. “We want people to come into our country. They have to come in legally.”
Guthrie mentioned people can’t apply for the DACA program and that now DACA recipients have to renew every year instead of every two years. Trump said this was a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve made it very very difficult to come in because of the pandemic,” Trump said.
Trump also said the borders are now more restricted because of crime.
Biden was not asked a question about immigration during his town hall.
Outcome of the election
Biden said he will continue to focus on the issues whether or not he is elected, and if he is elected he will try to unify Americans rather than divide them.
Biden said he thinks the American people understand what is at stake with this election. He said he will work for everyone if he is elected president, not just those who voted for him.
Biden said he plans to restore bipartisanship civility to the U.S. democracy by reaching across party lines like he did when he was vice president.
“In politics, grudges don’t work,” Biden said.
He said it is important to question other people’s judgement rather than their motives and listen to what the other person says.
Trump said he would accept a peaceful transfer following the election if Biden were to win.
However, he said he wants the election to be fair and absent of voter fraud. He said he thinks it is possible there will be more fraud in this election, saying there have been thousands of ballots found in garbage cans.
"I want it to be clean," Trump said. "There's a tremendous problem."
Guthrie refuted this claim saying the FBI director said there is no evidence of widespread fraud.
"Well, he's not doing a very good job," Trump said.