The stark differences between the Republican and Democratic candidate were clear, even though they weren’t on the same stage.
President Donald Trump and Democratic Nominee Joe Bident took to two different stages on Thursday night for separate town hall meetings to answer constituent questions.
The two televised town halls were a first for presidential candidates during an election. Originally, Biden and Trump were scheduled to meet for a town-hall style debate, but in the weeks leading up to the event Trump tested positive and was hospitalized for COVID-19.
Out of concern over the spread of the coronavirus, the Commission on Presidential Debates proposed a town hall in which the candidates participate virtually. Trump refused.
Instead, Biden participated in a town hall televised on ABC from Philadelphia, and Trump took to NBC from Miami. The historic events, which were broadcast at the same time, forced voters to pick which candidate to watch or switch back and forth.
Trump’s town hall began with about 20 minutes of questions exclusively from moderator Savannah Guthrie of NBC. She asked a series of questions about Trump’s own experience with the coronavirus and pressed him on some of his claims that the United States is handling the pandemic well.
“We’re a winner on the excess mortality and what we’ve done has been amazing,” Trump said. “We have done an amazing job and [the US] is rounding the corner and we have vaccines coming and we have therapies coming.”
Guthrie then asked the president about a controversial strategy that the White House has allegedly been considering to reach herd immunity. The idea is that officials ease restrictions and allow large swaths of the population to catch and recover from the virus, thus increasing the population’s immunity.
“The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself,” Trump said in a frequently confusing response.
The risk of forcing herd immunity comes from the high mortality rate of the virus and overwhelming the country’s health infrastructure. Public health experts have called the idea dangerous and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s foremost infectious disease expert, said it was “ridiculous.”
Later in his town hall discussion Trump refused to disavow the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, which claims that Democrats are in a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles running a global sex trafficking ring and Trump is fighting against it.
Trump claimed that he is unfamiliar with the conspiracy theory.
“I know nothing about it, I do know they are very much against pedophilia, they fight it very hard but I know nothing about it,” he said.
Biden’s 90-minute town hall meeting was less combative and more informative than Trump’s.
In conversation with constituents and moderator George Stephanolopus of ABC, Biden vowed to reverse policies imposed by the Trump administration and criticized his leadership.
Biden also made history by addressing violence against transgender individuals.
“There should be zero discrimination, and what’s happening is too many transgender women of color are being murdered,” he said. In 2020, 33 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Biden said he would explain his position on expanding the Supreme Court once the Senate finishes work on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Police reform has been at center stage in the United States this year, after the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many other Black people led to protests. Biden addressed the issue and called for more community policing.
“Community policing doesn’t mean more people coming in up-armored Humvees and swarming,” Biden said. “You can ban chokeholds but beyond that you need to teach people how to de-escalate circumstances.”
The two candidates are scheduled to meet in Nashville for one final debate before the election on October 22.