Checking the facts and other takeaways from a night of dueling town halls
President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden faced inquisitive voters on separate stages in different cities Thursday night in a substitute for the debate that was meant to be.
Here’s how some of the rhetoric compared with the facts in the prime-time events and a day of campaigning. Scroll further to see key takeaways, photos from tonight’s events and more.
Fact-checking the non-debate:
Other takeaways and key moments:
Trump ‘defeated’ Guthrie
A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign is declaring that the president “defeated” town hall moderator, Savannah Guthrie, and derided the NBC “Today” host as a “surrogate” for Biden’s campaign.
Campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh also said after Thursday’s event that the president “masterfully handled Guthrie’s attacks and interacted warmly and effectively with the voters in the room.”
What happens if Biden loses
Asked what he would do if he lost the election, Biden said Thursday that he hopes that if he fails to beat Trump, then it doesn’t mean “we are as racially, ethnically and religiously at odds with one another as it appears the president wants us to be.”
Biden says if he loses he will return to teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. However, he also said he would continue to press for racial justice, deferring to the leaders such as the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis as having made a bigger impact than he ever would.
There should be ‘zero discrimination’
Biden says there should be “zero discrimination” against transgender people. He said he would reverse Trump’s moves to revoke protections for transgender people against sex discrimination in health care and restrict military service by transgender men and women. He also condemned violence against transgender women of color.
Trump on Roe v. Wade
Trump was asked about the ruling establishing abortion rights nationwide during a town hall in Florida. He said, “I don’t want to do anything to influence anything right now.” Trump, who nominated Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the Supreme Court, says he worries that discussing his viewpoint could be seen as “trying to give her a signal” on how to rule.
Biden on the Supreme Court
Biden says he is willing to take a position before Election Day on the idea of expanding the Supreme Court “depending on how” Republicans handle Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. He said he’s “not a fan” of so-called court packing. But he also said he believes Republicans are violating the spirit of the Constitution with a confirmation process while people are already voting in the presidential election.
On the 1994 crime bill
Biden failed to acknowledge the criticisms of the 1994 crime bill, which he as a member of the Senate helped write and pass and which has been used to illustrate systemic racism in the nation. However, last year Biden publicly accepted responsibility for his part in the passage of the legislation, especially that which toughened sentences for crack cocaine possession, calling it a “big mistake” for its damage to the Black community.
‘$400 million is a peanut’
Trump acknowledged he may owe $400 million as part of his business dealings, but he’s not saying to whom he owes money. Trump was pressed on a New York Times report citing tax returns showing he has business debts exceeding $400 million.
He insisted that he didn’t owe any money to Russia or any “sinister people.” He described his debts as a “very very small percentage.” He said: “$400 million is a peanut.”
‘We should be on the same side’
The first half of Trump’s town hall was dominated by testy exchanges with Guthrie after she pushed him on a variety of issues. Under the intense questioning, Trump told Guthrie “we should be on the same side.”
Guthrie pressed Trump to say when he last tested negative for the coronavirus before his positive diagnosis earlier this month. He did not say.
She pressed him on his prolific tweeting, telling him he’s not someone’s “crazy uncle” who can tweet whatever they want. He said the tweet she focused on was a retweet.
Guthrie also challenged Trump on his dubious claims about mask-wearing, telling the president that his own government experts are “all in unison” on their benefits.
Trump on voter fraud
Trump inaccurately contended there is a tremendous problem with voter fraud and takes issue with FBI Director Christopher Wray saying last month that he has not seen evidence of a widespread issue.
Trump said at a town hall event in Miami: “Well, then, he’s not doing a very good job.”
Biden on taxes
Biden said he doesn’t plan to eliminate all the tax cuts enacted by Trump, just those that apply to the top earners.
Referencing tax cuts for the top 1%, Biden said: “That’s what I’m talking about eliminating, not all the tax cuts that are out there.”
More town hall coverage:
The night in photos: