Nashville, Tennessee — President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden participated in the final presidential debate before the election Thursday night at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The debate had significantly fewer interruptions than the previous one.
In the hours leading up to the debate, hundreds of supporters from both sides of the political spectrum converged at a popular intersection, just outside the campus of Belmont University, the site of the final presidential debate. Biden’s supporters were separated from Trump’s by a busy roadway, but over time, political supporters from both sides crossed the street and interacted with their political opposites.
Trump’s supporters were seen holdingTrump flags and signs reading Make America Great Again. Biden’s supporters — many wearing T-shirts in support of the Biden campaign — were also holding posters supporting progressive positions.
The debate itself consisted of six, roughly 15-minute sections where the candidates were each given two minutes to speak uninterrupted followed by an open discussion. The candidate who was not speaking had his microphone muted during the two minutes of uninterrupted speaking.
The moderator Kristen Welker, NBC co-anchor of Weekend Today and White House correspondent, asked the candidates about COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.
Welker first asked the candidates to explain their respective plans to combat COVID-19.
Trump said China is at fault for the pandemic, however the mortality rate in America has decreased and he said a vaccine will be coming soon. He said he learned a lot about COVID-19 when he contracted it and recovered.
“We’re rounding the corner,” he said. “It’s going away.”
Trump said he can’t keep the country closed because businesses are dying and schools need to stay open.
Biden said there are still thousands of Americans contracting COVID-19 and dying from it each day, and Trump has no comprehensive plan to fight it. He said he will encourage people to wear masks, increase rapid testing and give schools and businesses financial resources to successfully open up.
“I will take care of this, I will end this, I will make sure we have a plan,” he said.
Biden said he is not ruling out shutdowns and believes we need to continue social distancing, wearing masks and keeping businesses closed until we have the pandemic under control.
Welker asked the candidates to describe their health care plans, in light of the possibility of the Affordable Care Act being overturned by the Supreme Court.
Trump said he will come up with a new healthcare plan to replace the Affordable Care Act and will protect people with pre-existing conditions. He said he terminated the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.
“We have done an incredible job on health care,” he said.
Trump said Biden will eliminate private health care and implement socialized medicine.
Biden said his plan is to build on the Affordable Care Act and have both private and public healthc are options for Americans. He said he wants to reduce premiums and drug prices.
“I think health care is not a privilege,” he said. “It’s a right.”
Welker asked the candidates to discuss immigration and the separation of children from their families at the border.
Trump said America has a strong border and people need to come here legally. He said children are brought here by cartels, gangs and coyotes, but are kept in nice facilities when separated from their families.
Biden said he will introduce a pathway to citizenship within the first 100 days in office. He said he will give people the opportunity to make a case for why they deserve citizenship and put DACA kids on the path to citizenship.
Race in America
Welker explained many Brown and Black Americans have a talk with their children about the potential of being targeted by police for the color of their skin. She asked the candidates if they understand why those parents fear for their children’s safety.
Biden said he does understand why those parents fear for their children and never had to have this conversation with his children.
“There is institutional racism in America,” he said.
Biden said he wants to work toward inclusion, better access to schooling and health care and make it possible for people of color to accumulate wealth and be free from violence.
He said he wants to eliminate minimum mandatory sentences and send people with drug problems to rehabilitation rather than prison.
Trump said he does understand why those parents fear for their children. He said he has worked toward criminal justice and prison reform.
“I am the least racist person in this room,” he said.
Trump said he has done more for the Black community than Biden, citing his support for the 1994 Crime Bill. He said Biden is all talk and no action.
Welker asked the candidates how they plan to combat climate change and create jobs.
Trump said he loves the environment and wants clean air and water. He said we have low carbon emissions currently and took the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement because it would have been too expensive and cost jobs.
“We have done an incredible job environmentally,” he said.
Trump said solar and wind energy is too expensive and would not be sufficient for fueling factories.
Biden said climate change is an existential threat to humanity and we have a moral obligation to solve it because we have eight to 10 years before the point of no return.
“Our health and our jobs are at stake,” he said.
Biden said he wants to invest in charging stations on highways in order to own the electric car market in the future, remodel buildings and homes in order to reduce oil leaks and invest in renewable energy.
Trump said Biden’s plan to combat climate change would be an economic disaster and Biden will spend $100 trillion .
“I don’t know where he comes up with these numbers,” Biden said in response.
Trump said Biden opposes fracking and will ban it. Biden said he will not ban fracking.
Welker asked the candidates how they plan to end the threat of foreign interference in American elections.
Biden said any country that interferes in American elections will pay a price. He said those countries are interfering with American sovereignty and Trump is doing nothing to prevent or stop it.
Trump said Biden has received money from foreign countries such as Russia.
“I have not taken a penny from any foreign source, ever, in my life,” Biden said.
Biden said he has released all his tax returns and Trump has not, accusing him of receiving money from foreign sources.
Trump said he is treated badly by the IRS and is under audit, so he can’t release his tax returns.
“No president should ever have to go through what I went through,” Trump said.
Welker asked Trump about his company’s bank account in China which was recently discovered.
Trump said he closed the account in 2015 before he ran for president.
Welker asked the candidates how they would reign in the threat to national security posed by North Korea.
Biden said he would make sure the U.S. can control North Korea and make sure they cannot hurt us. He said he would be willing to meet with Kim Jong Un under the condition of him drawing back his nuclear capacity.
Trump said he has a good relationship with Kim Jong Un and will be able to prevent a nuclear war.
Welker asked the candidates at the end of the debate to imagine it was their inauguration day. She asked them what they would say to Americans who did not vote for them.
Trump said we have to make our country successful. He said we have the best unemployment numbers, but Biden will cause an economic depression.
“Success is going to bring us together,” he said.
Biden said he will tell people who did not vote for him that he will serve them as an American president regardless of whether they voted for or against him. He said he will focus on opportunities to improve our country, combat systemic racism and build the economy by creating new jobs through implementing clean energy.
“What is on the ballot here is the character of this country,” he said.
Reporter David Wolfe Bender reported from the field in Nashville, Tennessee outside of the debate venue. Reporter Luzane Draughon reported the content of the actual debate virtually.