President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday offered the country a rare side-by-side look at their respective styles, with Biden making little news and staying largely on message as Trump kept fact-checkers and pundits busy with a stream of bombast.
Biden, who fell short of revealing his definitive stance on court packing in his ABC News town hall, moderated by George Stephanopoulos, stated that he would give a position on it before the election and conceded his support of the 1994 Crime Bill was a mistake, although added that there were elements of the controversial bill that were “both bad and good.”
Biden drew positive coverage for his attempts to connect with voters, encouraging one to talk with him afterwards and holding an impromptu question & answer with the audience even after the program ended.
“The Biden town hall is refreshingly boring,” tweeted New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie, who said of Trump, “he treats every questioner as if they are attacking him, and spends his time shouting at them.”
In his NBC town hall, Trump raised eyebrows for hitting back angrily at moderator Savannah Guthrie when asked if he will denounce white supremacy and for refusing to denounce conspiracy group QAnon, stating he knows nothing about it except “they are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that.”
Trump repeated falsehoods on voting, his meagre income tax payments as recently revealed by the New York Times, and failed to directly answer whether he had taken a coronavirus test on the day of his debate with Biden, with Business Insider’s Grace Panetta tweeting, “Trump is spreading so much false and misleading information about voting right now it’s hard to keep up.”
The overlapping town halls came about after negotiations over the second presidential debate, slated for Thursday, fell apart due to Trump’s refusal to go virtual following his coronavirus diagnosis. Just hours after the Trump campaign walked away – later requesting the debate to move forward in-person with a one-week delay – the Biden campaign closed the door on a debate by scheduling a town hall with ABC, prompting Trump to schedule one in the same time slot with rival NBC, which caused internal turmoil at the network.
The Trump campaign expressed outrage at both Stephanopoulos and Guthrie, alleging Biden received friendly treatment while Trump was met with hostility. “Savannah Guthrie has interrupted Trump in these 60 seconds more than Stephanopoulos has done to Biden in 40 mins. NBC is an interrogation. ABC is a picnic,” tweeted Trump ally Ari Fleischer.
“My group of undecided voters say that the more Trump speaks, the worse he looks,” tweeted conservative pollster Frank Luntz, indicating that a ratings win for Trump may not end up translating to a polling boost.