It wasn’t as combative as the first presidential debate, but Thursday’s competing town halls between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden had plenty of tense moments.
The candidates were originally scheduled to square off in a town hall debate on this day in Miami. But the Commission on Presidential Debates last week announced the debate would be held virtually due to the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis on Oct. 1. The debate was eventually canceled.
Instead, both candidates scheduled televised town halls, Trump on NBC, Biden on ABC.
Here are some of the top moments from them:
Biden talks COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates
COVID-19 questions led the first moments of the town hall. Biden opened his answer by criticizing the president for not taking the virus seriously, as well as not urging more precautions like wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“Americans don’t panic,” Biden said. “He panicked.”
Biden also noted that he supports potentially making a vaccine to treating coronavirus mandatory. He conceded, however, that there’s no way to force Americans to take the vaccine once it’s available.
More:Trump, Biden town halls start with very different tones
“It depends on the state of the nature of the vaccine, when it comes out and how it’s being distributed,” Biden said. “But I think we should think about making it mandatory.”
When asked how he would enforce that mandate, Biden said “you couldn’t.” He added that such a mandate would be like a face mask mandate, where he would have to turn to talking to governors and mayors to try and get their residents to wear masks.
Biden also noted that he would take a vaccine if scientists agree that it’s ready and “would encourage everybody to take it.”
‘I can’t be in a basement”: Trump dodges on question on COVID tests
Trump, who announced he tested positive for COVID-19 a few days after his debate with Biden, dodged a question about whether he tested negative the day of the debate, as was required by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
“I don’t know. I don’t even remember,” Trump said.
More:Melania Trump says son Barron tested positive for COVID-19, had no symptoms
While insisting he was in “great shape” the day of the debate, Sept. 30, Trump said he relied on his doctors to monitor his testing and didn’t know whether he tested before it.
“I was in great shape for the debate, and sometime after the debate I tested positive,” Trump said.
The commission required that everyone in attendance at the debate test negative beforehand, but conceded that for the two presidential candidates, they would accept on the honor system that they had tested negative.
“Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t,” Trump said Thursday.
The president was also asked about the event announcing his Supreme Court pick in the White House Rose Garden that has been considered a “superspreader” event.
He ducked answering whether he should have known better than to hold the event without wearing a mask. Trump said he has no problem with wearing a mask. But, “I’m president,” he said. “I have to see people. I can’t be in a basement … I have to be out.”
Thirteen people at that Rose Garden event have tested positive for coronavirus. But Trump questioned if that is where he contracted the virus.
Trump refuses to condemn conspiracy group QAnon
After Trump sparred with moderator Savannah Guthrie about his hesitancy to explicitly condemn white supremacy at the last debate, Guthrie asked him to condemn another group, which has been deemed dangerous by the FBI: QAnon.
Trump maintained that he didn’t know much about the group, other than that they are “very much against pedophilia.”
Live town halls:Trump dodges question on masks, Biden talks about mandating they be worn
“I’ll tell you what I do know about, I know about antifa and I know about the radical left,” he said.
Guthrie said to Trump that QAnon falsely alleges the existence of a satanic “deep state” apparatus that supports a child sex trafficking ring, but he said he couldn’t rely on her information to be fact.
“I just don’t know about QAnon,” Trump said.
“You do know,” Guthrie pressed.
“Why aren’t you asking me about antifa?” Trump pivoted, referring to the left-wing anti-fascist movement. “Why aren’t you asking Joe Biden questions about, why doesn’t he condemn antifa?”
Guthrie replied that she had Trump in front of her to ask questions, not Biden.
“Haha, so cute,” Trump responded.
Young Black progressive to Biden: How will you earn my vote?
Biden was asked Thursday evening what he is going to do to turn out young Black voters.
Cedric, a Black progressive voter from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, pointedly asked how Biden is going to turn out young Black voters under 30, other than saying “you ain’t Black,” a reference to a previous comment Biden made. Cedric noted that he is part of a crucial voting bloc that Democrats need to show up to the polls, adding that young Black voters aren’t going to vote for Trump, they’re just unsure whether they’re going to vote at all.
Biden offered a long-winded answer saying he will give more funding to historically Black colleges and universities, as well as to Title I schools. The former vice president also highlighted investing into Black entrepreneurs.
While Biden has the overwhelming support among Black Americans, younger voters have been more critical about supporting the former vice president.
During his answer, moderator George Stephanopoulos interjected, asking the voter whether he had heard enough to convince him to vote for the former vice president.
“I think so,” the voter replied.
“There’s a lot more if you want to hang out afterwards, I’ll tell you more.” Biden said, before speaking about how he would combat redlining practices that exclude Black Americans from homeownership.
Trump on his debts: ‘$400 million is a peanut’
While discussing the issue of Trump’s taxes, he did not deny that he owes entities about $400 million, and pledged to tell Americans to whom he owes money.
“I will not mind at all saying who it is,” Trump said. He said he doesn’t owe money to Russians, and said of whether he owes to any foreign interests, “Not that I know of.”
The New York Times reported that Trump has had low federal tax bills, just $750 for the years 2016 and 2017 and nothing for several other years, and taken major financial losses in his business career.
More:Key takeaways from the New York Times’ investigation into Trump’s taxes while in office
Trump has declined to release his tax returns, breaking with decades of tradition for presidential candidates. He cited an ongoing IRS review of his taxes as the reason, but there is no rule that prohibits him from doing so during an IRS investigation. He instead points to less detailed annual financial summaries required by law.
Trump was pressed during the town hall about a Times report that showed his real estate company suffered chronic losses. Trump said “the numbers are all wrong” in the report, but did not offer specific details about what was wrong.
“$400 million compared to the assets that I have, all of these great properties all over the world,” he said.
He further minimized the amount.
“What I’m saying is that it’s a tiny percentage of my net worth.”
“The amount of money – $400 million, is a peanut,” Trump said, arguing that his company is under leveraged.
Biden ‘not a fan’ on court packing,
but demures on clear answer
Where does Biden stand on court packing? It’s still unclear.
Biden was asked Thursday whether he supports expanding the Supreme Court as Republicans are rushing the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee to fill the late-Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat.
“I’m not a fan,” Biden said. “It depends how this turns out, not how (Trump) wins, but how it’s handled.”
Biden and running mate Kamala Harris have repeatedly been asked whether they support expanding the court, and have not given a clear answer. The Senate is expected to vote on Barrett’s confirmation late this month.
During the town hall, Biden said that the Senate shouldn’t vote on the confirmation due because early voting has already begun. More than 14 million Americans have early voted. When pressed about expanding the court, Biden said “No matter what I answer I gave you, that’s the headline tomorrow.”
“It won’t be about what’s going on now, the improper way they’re proceeding,” he continued.
Biden added that he will make his position clear before Election Day on Nov. 3.