Trump and Biden Appear in Opposing Town Halls


Although Trump declined to participate in the initial plan of a single town hall with Biden, he later appeared on NBC News. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Weeks away from the general election, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden appeared in competing town halls at the same time on Thursday night. The nominees were initially supposed to appear in a singular event, but President Trump declined to participate in a virtual capacity after recovering from COVID-19. Biden’s campaign then planned a town hall on ABC News, and days later, Trump’s campaign scheduled an event with NBC News. 

Trump’s town hall was led by NBC moderator Savannah Guthrie in Miami, Florida with questions from prospective voters. He defended his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, denied the times he failed to denounce white supremacists and said he would commit to a peaceful transition of power if he finds it to be “an honest election.”

Vice President Joe Biden’s town hall, moderated by George Stephanopoulos on ABC Network, discussed his plans for the economy, the United States’ handling of the coronavirus, police reform and the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. In the 90-minute forum, held in Pennsylvania, Biden answered questions from a series of voters across the political spectrum, ranging from Republican to Democrat to undecided. 

Olivia Morri, FCRH ’21, president of the Fordham College Republicans, said she and other executives of the club are not currently making statements or offering opinions on the 2020 presidential election.

Claire McDonnell, FCRH ’21, president of the Fordham College Democrats, said she was impressed with Biden’s performance.

I thought Biden performed well in the town hall,” she said. “He was able to keep his responses pretty policy-focused and answer the questions in a meaningful way. I wouldn’t say all of his responses were perfect, but he was able to connect well with the audience members and come away with a good performance.”

Among other notable moments, Biden expressed regret over his 1994 crime bill, which has since been blamed for increasing incarceration rates among minority communities for non-violent offenses. 

Biden also offered his clearest stance to date on the issue of court-packing, a subject that has come to the forefront amid Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s impending confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that he would make his position known before election day “depending on how [the Senate] handle[s] this.”

He also said that he would try to make a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine mandatory for all citizens, but he also added that it would be difficult to enforce this.

At Trump’s town hall in Miami, one of the most notable answers was regarding the QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims that President Trump is battling a “Deep State” child sex trafficking ring run by Democrats.

“I know nothing about QAnon. I do know that they are very much against pedophilia,” he said. “I’ll tell you what I do know about: I know about antifa, and I know about the radical left.”

Trump also responded to several concerns about his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and why he had not acted earlier to respond. He said his decision to restrict travel from China in January aimed to mitigate the spread of the virus, and said he did not want to “panic” the country. When asked why he does not encourage his supporters to wear masks, he said he supported mask-wearing but questioned its effectiveness.

Trump and Guthrie’s interactions often became contentious throughout the night, as the moderator expressed quick questions and pushed for direct answers. After the town hall, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said Ms. Guthrie acted as a “debate opponent and a Joe Biden surrogate.”

McDonnell said Biden’s town hall provided a marked contrast from the president’s, where Biden was able to dive into policy initiatives his administration could take if he were elected.

“I think it’s incredibly important for Biden to provide a contrast with Trump,” McDonnell said. “One of the most constructive parts of Biden’s town hall was its overall tone of the night, between Biden and the moderator [George Stephanopoulos] as well as the audience.”

McDonell also noted the town hall was a welcome change from the first debate, where Trump frequently interrupted Biden.

“Especially in comparison with the first debate, I found Biden’s town hall to be quite informative and focused on his policy proposals,” she said. “He was unclear when talking about his opinion on packing the courts and on his climate plan, but overall I think he was pretty clear on his platform.”

The final presidential debate before the General Election will be Thursday, Oct. 22 in Nashville, Tennessee.