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‘Stand back and stand by’: 5 key moments from the first U.S Presidential debate


by Erin Lindsay
30th Sep 2020
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‘A hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck’


The first 2020 U.S Presidential debate got underway last night, as former Vice President Joe Biden took to the stage against current president Donald Trump.

The debate, described afterwards as ‘chaotic’, ‘an embarrassment’, and ‘a shit show’, was universally condemned as a disaster by journalists and broadcasters. One CNN broadcaster described it as ‘a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck’.

Constant interruptions and talking over each other meant that very little information or quality debate took place between the opponents.

Nonetheless, here are five key moments from the debate that made it through the noise.

Trump refuses to condemn white supremacists

A key point of the debate occured when moderator Chris Wallace asked the president if he would condemn white supremacist groups and tell them to ‘stand down’.“Sure, I’m willing to do that, but I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing,” Trump said. “Well, do it, sir,” replied Wallace, as Biden said “Say it. Do it.”

“What do you want to call them?” Trump asked. “Give me a name… Who do you want me to condemn?”

“White supremacists and white militia,” Wallace said, while Biden offered the far-right Proud Boys as an example.

“OK, Proud Boys: Stand back and stand by,” Trump said. “But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing.”

Pandemic question leads Trump to accuse Biden of being ‘a disaster’ during swine flu pandemic

A huge issue of the first debate was the Covid-19 pandemic, which has, so far, claimed the lives of more than 200,0000 Americans — accounting for 20% of the world’s total deaths.

When accused of mismanaging the pandemic response, Trump accused China of unleashing the virus on the world, and said the death toll would be far higher had Biden been in charge.

Trump accused Biden of being ‘a disaster’ during the H1N1 flu, which hit during Biden’s term as Vice President.“Fourteen thousand died,” Biden shot back. “We didn’t shut down the economy.”

Biden tells Trump to ‘shut up’

As the debate became more and more heated, Trump’s interruptions and boisterous debating style lead Biden to frustration.

During a line of questioning about the Supreme Court appointments, Trump repeatedly cut in as Biden was speaking.“Will you shut up, man? … This is so unpresidential,” Biden fired back.

Trump defends tax returns

The New York Times’ scoop on Trump’s tax returns last week was another key focus of the debate. However, Trump seemed unapologetic in response, saying: “Chris, let me just say something, that it was the tax laws. I don’t want to pay tax. Before I came here, I was a private developer. I was a private business [person]. Like every other private person, unless they’re stupid, they go through the laws, and that’s what it is.”

Moderator Chris Wallace attempts to reign in Trump

Fox News’ Chris Wallace moderated the debate, but when constant interruptions decended the debate into a confusing spell of crosstalk, Wallace became visibly frustrated. “Stop!” Wallace said. “Gentlemen, I hate to raise my voice, but why should I be any different than the two of you?”

Wallace appealed to the president to stop interrupting, to which Trump replied “Well, and him, too,” referring to Biden.

“Well, frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting than he has,” Wallace said.