The First 2020 Presidential Debate: Recap

On September 29, Republican incumbent Donald Trump faced off against Democrat and former Vice President Joe Biden in Cleveland, Ohio in the first 2020 Presidential debate. The candidates traded blows on topics including the pandemic, racial tension, the economy, and election integrity. President Trump repeatedly interrupted moderator Chris Wallace, while Biden called Trump a racist, a liar, and a clown.

Trump refused to denounce white supremacy in America. White supremacist groups in America have counter-protested Black Lives Matter protests, and many members of these groups support Trump. When asked by the moderator to condemn white supremacy, President Trump addressed the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist and far-right organization with ties to white supremacists, by saying, “Stand back and stand by.” 

Biden and Trump discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, which at the time of the debate had killed more than 200,000 Americans. Trump mocked Biden for wearing a mask often and stated that millions would be dead if Biden had handled the crisis. In the days since the debate, Trump and several members of his administration have tested positive for COVID-19. Biden asserted that Trump had no plans to combat the disease, while Trump continued to blame the virus on China. On the topic of reopening the economy, Trump asserted that staying shut down would harm the economy further, while Biden stated that only billionaires benefited from the early reopening and that workers were harmed by it. 

Trump spoke out against mail-in ballots, claiming that they exacerbated voter fraud. He alluded to his earlier threats of not accepting the election results, and encouraged his supporters to “go to the polls and watch very carefully.” Biden countered that mail-in ballots had been used for decades and were proven to be safe. He emphasized the importance of letting people vote on their own terms due to the virus. 

Towards the end of the debate, the issue of climate change came up. Biden discussed his plans for a two trillion dollar investment in clean energy and described Trump’s ignorance of climate science and his removal of the USA from the Paris Climate Accords. Trump mentioned the California wildfires and proposed a bizarre plan to clean the forest floors to avoid forest fires. When pressed by Wallace on whether human industrial emissions caused climate change, the President gave a nonchalant answer and continued to emphasize the importance of forest management. 

It is unclear who won the debate. On October 7, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris will debate in the Vice Presidential debate, and Biden and Trump will debate again twice on October 15th and 22nd.

About the Author

Mike Trombetta
I'm from Orland Park, IL, a suburb of Chicago. I write about politics, media, and social movements.

3 Comments on "The First 2020 Presidential Debate: Recap"

  1. I hate to fact check but a quick search of political (or watching the debate) shows he didnt refuse to condemn white supremacy what he said, when asked, was “sure I’ll do that.” While he didn’t take as strong a stance as we may have hoped he still said he would condemn it

    • Mike Trombetta | October 8, 2020 at 1:58 pm | Reply

      In response to Evan,

      When asked by the moderator to condemn white supremacist groups and admit that they needed to stand down, President Trump did say “Sure, I’m willing to do that.” The moderator told him to do it. Trump went on to deflect the question by saying most violence was coming from leftist agitators. The moderator prompted Trump again to denounce the groups. It was then that Trump said, “To the proud boys, stand back and stand by.” This is clearly not a condemnation, despite him saying he was willing to condemn them. It was a very blatant move to avoid condemning the groups, and by telling them to “stand by,” can be read as an endorsement of those groups and the violence they propagate. Here is a link to the debate segment where President Trump made these remarks:


  2. Just responding one more time regarding that comment.

    I know I’m being pedantic but him saying “sure I’m willing to do that” is hardly a refusal. If one says they are willing to do something that is the opposite of refusing:

    According to oxford english dictionary:

    Willing; given or done readily.

    Refuse; indicate or show that one is not willing to do something.

    This shows that the two are diametrically opposed. To refuse to do something is literally to show one is NOT willing. Meaning that when trump said he was willing he expressly did not refuse

    I don’t even get the stand by comment. It seems like he could be telling them to back off when he asks to to stand back and by. He could be telling them to stand by him. But I do not see how “stand by” can be read as an endorsement considering he was asking them to stand by rather than saying he stands by them.

    I am simply trying to correct and error because while he did deflect the question to antifa, he could not, in any interpretation of the English language, have refused to condemn white supremacy.

    SOrry if it feels like I’m coming at you, I’m not I just strive for accuracy and truth and just want to make sure that an error gets corrected so that nobody gets fed inaccurate information and that objectivity and honesty and integrity in journalism is maintained.

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