Greenville (US), October 16
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden held simultaneously and separate televised town halls instead of the second presidential debate, taking questions from pre-selected individuals at sessions moderated by eminent television journalists.
While Trump’s town hall was hosted by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) in Miami, Florida, that of Biden was held in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) News.
The second presidential debate had originally been scheduled for Thursday night. However, it was cancelled after Trump refused to participate in a virtual format of the presidential debate as amended by the independent debate commission following the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
A final debate is still scheduled for October 22 in Nashville, Tennessee. The first debate was held on September 29 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Trump, 74, has recovered from a brief spell of COVID-19 after he and First Lady Melania Trump, 50, tested positive for the deadly viral infection on October 1. Trump’s doctors have now cleared him for his election campaigns.
During the town hall, Trump defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He also reiterated his stand on tax returns.
However, Trump refused to denounce the QAnon conspiracy theory.
According to QAnon, a far-right group that has been labelled a terror threat by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Democrats are running a secret paedophilia ring.
When asked by moderator Savannah Guthrie if he would denounce the QAnon theory and “just say it’s crazy and not true”, Trump said, “I don’t know about QAnon.” When pressed further on whether or not he believed that Democrats were running a paedophile ring, Trump said, “I have no idea.” Biden’s during his town hall said he would soon express his position on court-packing, an issue that he has avoided so far.
The 77-year-old Democratic presidential nominee said he will come out with a clear position before Election Day about where he stands on expanding the Supreme Court, depending on how the rest of the confirmation process of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is handled.
President Trump has selected Judge Barrett to succeed Supreme Court Justice late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The Senate Judiciary Committee finished its confirmation hearings for Barrett earlier on Thursday. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said that the committee will vote on Barrett’s nomination on October 22. If the committee approves her nomination, which is expected, it would be sent to the full Senate floor.
At the town hall with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Biden said he is “not a fan” of court-packing. When asked by Stephanopoulos if he was open to increasing the number of judges on the court if Barrett is confirmed before the election, Biden said, “I’m open to considering what happens from that point on”.
Republicans have repeatedly criticised Biden for not directly giving his view on court-packing.
“They do have a right to know where I’ll stand and they’ll have a right to know where I stand before they vote,” Biden said when asked whether voters had a right to know where he stands on the issue of expanding the court.
Replying to a question on if he would make his position clear before the Election Day, Biden said, “Yes, depending on how they handle this”, referring to the Republicans.
Expanding the number of justices on the court would take an act of Congress and approval from the president.
The Biden’s townhall had no question on the allegations related to his son Hunter Biden’s corruption.
According to a Senate Republican report released last month, during Biden’s tenure as vice president, Hunter, 50, received a USD 3.5 million wire transfer from Elena Baturina, the widow of Moscow’s former mayor Yury Luzhkov.
The report further alleged that Chinese nationals lavished Hunter and other members of the Biden family with money, giving Hunter and Biden’s brother James credit cards for a USD 100,000 international shopping spree.
Both Trump and Biden campaigns claimed that their candidates won the shows Thursday night.
“Even though the commission cancelled the in-person debate that could have happened tonight, one occurred anyway, and President Trump soundly defeated NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in her role as debate opponent and Joe Biden surrogate,” said Tim Murtaugh, Trump 2020 communications director.
“President Trump masterfully handled Guthrie’s attacks and interacted warmly and effectively with the voters in the room,” he said.
“Over on ABC, it was a completely different scene, as once again Biden was kept comfortable and away from any questions that might challenge him,” Murtaugh alleged.
Biden for President Deputy Campaign Manager and Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said that the two town halls showed that there were one leader and one liar.
“Joe Biden gave thoughtful answers to voters’ questions about COVID-19, taxes, racial equity, climate change, and more…1,100 miles away, and in a false, alternate reality of his own making, President Trump was combative and lashed out at voters. He refused to denounce QAnon…He lied about the effectiveness of masks,” he said.
“Trump has no answers for his failures to contain COVID-19 and manage our economy. And, after nearly four years in office, Trump still has no vision for how he’ll make health care more affordable,” Bedingfield said. —PTI