In Dueling Town Halls, Presidential Temperament On Display

President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden squared off Thursday evening in dueling town halls that were fraught with controversy before any of the cameras rolled. However, the reaction to both at the end of the night was vastly different and offered perhaps the starkest contrast between the two candidates to date. 

Town Hall Face Off

The dueling town halls were a phenomenon that was never to be. Thursday was originally a debate scheduled in Miami. However President Trump’s positive Covid test and the White House’s evasive answers as to when the President last tested negative prompted the Commission on Presidential Debates to change the debate to a virtual format. This was an unacceptable change for the Trump team who believed the virtual format would favor Biden and Trump pulled out of the debate.

NBC Boycott

When Trump cancelled the agreed upon debate appearance, Biden set up a town hall on ABC. Not to be outdone, President Trump scheduled one with NBC, reportedly insisting that it be at the same as Biden’s town hall. This prompted an avalanche of reactions in the Twitter-sphere with many, including several celebrities, pulling no punches in calling for a boycott of the NBC network. Wanda Sykes, John Cusack and Julia Louis Dreyfus were among many who supported a boycott of the network’s coverage.

Town Halls Feature Substance But Deliver On Tone

While we did get a few answers from the candidates, it was tone that defined this duel. First what did we learn substantively?

Trump refused to denounce QAnon, claiming ignorance, despite host Savannah Guthrie explicitly telling him their belief in a “deep state” satanic cult of pedophiles run by Democrats.

Trump seemingly admits, that per an earlier New York Times report, he is in fact in debt over $400 million which he described as “peanuts” and that to the “best of his knowledge” it is not owed to a foreign entity.

Trump also defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, repeated his false claims about widespread voter fraud, and claimed his administration would protect those with pre-existing conditions in healthcare and protect DACA recipients. The Trump administration is currently in court fighting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which would strip millions of their healthcare and leave those with pre-existing conditions with no protection. The President has promised for months to release a replacement health care plan in weeks. The Supreme Court ruled DACA must continue, however the administration has stopped new applicants and shortened renewal from two years to one.

By contrast, Biden dug into policy prescriptions, often with longer answers that allowed him to display his knowledge on many key subjects. However, finally pressed on court packing, he revealed after the outcome of the Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing he will share his views on the subject, all of which should take place before Election Day.

Biden also faced some heat from a town hall participant over the 1994 crime bill. Biden was quick to point out there were several positive aspects to the legislation including the Violence Against Women Act, and Assualt Weapons Ban, but expressed regret at how the bill had been applied in sentencing, particularly at the state level.

Biden further reinforced his commitment to not ban fracking and not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year.

While we got a little more daylight on the candidate’s policy positions, it was temperament that had viewers buzzing. Perhaps it can best be summed up by Trump Campaign Director, Mercedes Schlapp, who intended to make a dig at Biden, but may have given him the best compliment of the evening, likening Biden to beloved personality, Mr. Rogers

Other celebrities weighed in on the combative style of Trump who may have been pushed more than expected by host Savannah Guthrie, as she attempted to fact check the President in real time.

Reactions ranged from the humorous and furious to hopeful and grateful – it was quite a night for many of celebrity favorites.

Padma Lakshmi and Chelsea Handler offered more humorous takes, while Jon Favreau took notice at Trump’s refusal to denounce QAnon. However, Trump supporter and social media influencer, Terrance K. Williams was furious, particularly with host, Savannah Guthrie.

Perhaps the overwhelming sentiment however, expressed by none other than Bette Middler, Debra Messing and Tyler Oakley was the calm reassurance that the tone that the Biden town hall offered.

The final presidential debate is scheduled for October 22nd at Belmont University in Tennessee to be aired on NBC. Whether it actually happens remains to be seen as testing beforehand may be an issue.

Let’s hope for the sake of the electorate we get to see the candidates one more time offer their very different visions for America.

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About the Author

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Shaka Strong

Shaka Strong is an author and host for AfterBuzz TV.