Tags: 2020 Elections | Donald Trump | Joe Biden | Election 2020 | Debate

After COVID, Health Care and Hunter Biden, Increasingly Testy Debate Turns to Race

After COVID, Health Care and Hunter Biden, Increasingly Testy Debate Turns to Race

Thursday, 22 October 2020 09:44 PM

Thursday's presidential debate, under strict new rules aimed at greater civility, began civilly enough, as President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden again clashed over the COVID response. But as talk turned to Hunter Biden, health care, immigration, the environment and race, the tone grew increasingly strident.

President Donald Trump accused Vice President Joe Biden of taking no action on race during his eight years as vice president, despite his promises to get something done now.

Asked by moderator Kristen Welker about calling the Black Lives Matter movement a "symbol of hate," Trump said the first time he ever heard of the movement was a video of marchers chanting "Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon," in reference to police.

"I thought it was a terrible thing," Trump said. "As far as my relationships with all people, I think I have great relationships with all people. I am the least racist person in this room."

But he pointed to criminal justice reform, prison reform and Opportunity Zones during his tenure. "I took care of Black colleges and universities.

Biden shot back that Trump started his campaign four years ago "coming down the escalator saying he's going to get rid of those Mexican rapists. He's banned Muslims because they're Muslims."

He also noted Trump's statement in the first debate telling the far right Proud Boys to "stand by and stand ready."

"Come on, this guy is a dog whistle about as big as a fog horn," Biden said.

Hunter Biden allegations

The two men also  flew into each other over allegations of unreleased taxes and foreign business deals in the debate hall at Belmont University in Nashville.

Though Trump had been expected to attack Biden on recent allegations that Biden's son Hunter Biden's business dealings in Ukraine and China, it was Biden who brought up the subject, saying that Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has been discussing the case in the media, is part of a Russian propaganda campaign.

Biden also brought up Trump's recently revealed Chinese bank account.

That gave Trump his opening to fire back.

"I don't make money from China. You do," Trump said. "I don't make money from Ukraine. You do. I don't make money from Russia. You made $3 1/2 million dollars, Joe. And your son gave you — they even have a statement that we have to give 10% to the 'big man.' You're the big man, I think."

"I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life," Biden said. We learned that this president paid 50 times the tax in China, has a secret bank account with China, does business in China, and in fact is talking about me taking money?"

Further, Biden said he has released all his tax returns for the past 22 years, and slammed Trump for still not releasing his tax returns since the last election. Trump said his taxes are still under audit, and he will release them when he can.

"What are you hiding? Why are you unwilling? The foreign countries are paying you a lot. Russia's paying you a lot. China's paying you a lot. And your hotels and all your businesses all around the country, all around the world. And China's building a new road to a new golf course you have overseas. So what's going on here? Release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption."

Health Care

Trump defended his record on healthcare, pointing to an executive order getting rid of the individual mandate.

"That is the worst part of Obamacare," Trump said. "The individual mandate where you have to pay a fortune for the privilege of not having to pay for bad health insurance. I terminated it. It's gone."

Trump added that Biden will eliminate 180 million private health insurance plans.

"These are people that love their health care. People that have been successful. Middle income people," Trump said.

Biden called Trump's accusation "ridiculous."

"The idea that -- the fact there's a public option, people can choose, that makes it a socialist plan? The difference, I think health care is not a privilege. It's a right. Everyone should have the right to have affordable health care."

Initial civility

The debate kicked off with much more civility than the first debate with talk coronavirus plans.

Trump and Biden took turns and didn't speak over each other early on as they did in the first debate, though Trump did take an opportunity to get an early jab at what was expected to be an attack on Biden's son Hunter Biden's business dealings.

"We can't lock ourselves up in the basement like Joe does," Trump said. "He has the ability to lock himself up ... He's obviously made a lot of money someplace."

Biden laughed and didn't respond.

Biden later noted it is Trump's "ineptitude" that caused the country to have to shut down in large part and why businesses have gone under and why schools are closed.

"Instead of in a sand trap at his golf course he should have been negotiating with Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats," Biden said.

"220,000 Americans dead. If you hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this," Biden said.

"Anyone who's responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America," Biden said.

"We're about to go into a dark winter," he said. "And he has no plan."

Trump hit back that there would be no "dark winter" -- and defended his push to reopen the United States as soon as possible.

"We're rounding the turn. We're rounding the corner. It's going away," Trump said.

"We have a vaccine that's coming, it's ready, it's going to be announced within weeks."

"There's a lot riding on this debate," pollster John McLaughlin told Newsmax TV ahead of the debate. "Moreso for Joe Biden."

That, McLaughlin said, because President Trump's base is solid.

"What you look at Joe Biden entering this debate now with these blockbuster bombshell. That is not an understatement, including this confidante of the Biden cartel here that is now offered up basically confirming all the emails and text messages that I've been floating around about Hunter. Joe Biden has everything to lose tonight.

Former Hunter Biden business associate Tony Bobulinski held a press conference ahead of the debate, reiterating previous statement that Joe Biden was aware of Hunter Biden's overseas dealings.

Political analyst Mark Halperin told Newsmax TV that though Trump didn't do well in the first debate, he's not much different than most incumbent presidents, noting that Barack Obama lost his first debate, only to come back stronger in the final debate.

Rep. Mike Burgess, R-Texas, told Newsmax TV Trump "is going to win reelection tonight," and the debate will "perhaps be the first step in solidifying that."

The race will be close, Burgess said, but the president's gonna prevail."

More than 42 million people have already cast their ballots as part of a pandemic-era rise in early voting. In an election dominated by a polarizing president, far fewer undecided voters remain than at this point in 2016.

Sheets of plexiglass had been installed onstage between the two men, but ABC News reported just prior to the debate that they were removed at the request of White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump's Coronavirus Task Force said that since the candidates were 12 feet apart it was safe to remove the barriers.

In an effort to curtail interruptions this time, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced ahead of time that Trump and Biden would each have his microphone cut off while his rival delivers an opening two-minute answer to each of six debate topics.

The mute button didn't figure in the open discussion portion of the debate, but each still generally didn't talk over each other as in the first debate.

Trump was expecting to also be debating the moderator Welker. Recent media reports showed her family has contributed heavily to Democrats. But Trump at one point in the debate noted that Welker was doing a fairer job than he had expected.

The Associated Press and AFP contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Thursday's presidential debate, under strict new rules aimed at greater civility, began civilly enough, as President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden again clashed over the COVID response. But as talk turned to Hunter Biden, health care, immigration, the...
Election 2020, Debate
Thursday, 22 October 2020 09:44 PM
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