An overview of tonight’s presidential town halls

Tonight, Joe Biden and Donald Trump attended separate town halls in which voters asked a series of questions relating to this election’s pressing issues, in lieu of the previously scheduled second presidential debate. Our summary is followed by staff members’ commentary on what went down. (Note that this commentary does not reflect the opinions of The Talon as a whole.)


Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Joe Biden and Donald Trump attended separate town halls in which they answered questions tonight, replacing the originally scheduled second presidential debate.


Moderator Savannah Guthrie began by inquiring about Trump’s health and coronavirus testing routine after he was recently diagnosed with the coronavirus. She also pointed out he has interacted with constituents and other political leaders without a mask. Trump defended his actions, saying that his presidential duties require him to meet other people in person.

Guthrie then asked Trump about his hesitancy to denounce white supremacy during the last presidential debate. Trump repeatedly said he’s always denounced white supremacy, then began denouncing Antifa and radical leftist groups. When asked if he would disavow the QAnon conspiracy movement, whose followers believe that the Democratic Party and other powerful groups are controlled by a group of Satanist pedophiles, Trump said he didn’t know much about the group and commended their “strong stance” against pedophilia.

The town hall continued on the topic of the election and peaceful transfer of power. Trump said he would accept a peaceful transfer of power, yet alleged that widespread voter fraud would taint the results of the election.

One question from a “totally undecided” voter asked Trump about his plans to lower tax rates for the wealthy. Trump defended this policy by saying that higher taxes would cause companies to leave the United States, thus resulting in major job loss.

The moderator stepped in to ask Trump about the $400 million in debt he owes. Trump didn’t say who he was indebted to, but he appeared to confirm that number by saying that $400 million is a very small percentage of his total assets.

A registered Democrat asked Trump about the hypocrisy of Republicans for refusing to pass a Supreme Court nominee in February of an election year while being willing to confirm a nominee three weeks before this year’s election. Trump defended his right to nominate a justice during his presidency, arguing that the Democrats’ behavior during the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh justified the Republicans’ change of heart.

When asked about abortion rights, Trump didn’t answer whether he would support overturning Roe v. Wade, saying that he would prefer that the issue be left up to the Supreme Court.

Story by Nathaniel Joffe



As the town hall opened, something strange caught my eye: the way Trump sat on his stool. Weirdly, the way a 74-year-old, overweight, sweaty man sat on a chair, in a position halfway between sitting, squatting and a sideways lunge, served as an excellent metaphor for his vision of America: outdated, unsustainable and inconsistent.

This vision of America is one I fear. Tonight our president took every opportunity he could to brag about the few things he has accomplished and lie about his failures. 

From pedophilia to votes in garbage cans to $400 million being a “peanut,” this town hall presented an uncertain future for America.

Look at the state of America today: peaceful protestors getting tear-gassed, a pandemic out of control and too much more. It was not like this four years ago. Although you can blame many factors for these events, there is one common denominator — Donald Trump. 

At tonight’s town hall, Trump avoided all of those issues. He took a question about police reform and used it to speak about how he has “done more for the African American community than any president with the exception of Abraham Lincoln,” which is blatantly false. When asked about masks, he spoke about America’s unpreparedness for a pandemic, ignoring the fact that he shut down the White House pandemic response team. 

This man has ruined the country he was elected to lead. Now the slogan “Make America Great Again” makes sense, because it is not great, and this town hall made clear that Trump is not the man to take us back to that great America.

At tonight’s debate, when asked about the fact that he is $400 million in debt, he said that that quantity of money was nothing compared to his assets. When the median net worth of an American family in 2016 is $97,300 dollars, it is clear that Trump is not representative of America. 

Trump is clearly disconnected from the average American family, not even acknowledging that one of the largest financial strains on American families is healthcare. Many rely on the government for their healthcare, but when asked about Obamacare, Trump made clear he has no concrete plans to bring forth a replacement. Instead he simply stated his goal to remove Obamacare. It is important to mention that since his campaign in 2016, Trump has repeatedly promised to bring forth a better, cheaper Obamacare alternative. So far, he has done nothing to make that promise a reality.

This town hall was all over the place. Without giving a clear answer to most questions, it’s difficult to understand what Trump may do over the next term, yet he did reaffirm a few of my previous suspicions.

I know he will incite violence by failing to condemn those who are clearly in the wrong, like we saw in how he responded to the Charlottesville riots. I know he will lie, as he has done since coming into office in 2017. I know that he will continue to divide America. Sure, maybe stocks will go up under his administration. Maybe he will bring forth a new healthcare plan. Maybe he will do a lot of things.

But 2020 is not the year for maybe. What we needed earlier this year, what we need now and what we need in the future is legitimate, consistent, truthful leadership. This town hall reaffirmed that Trump would provide none of that. Instead, he would provide a racist, bigoted, inconsistent government administration that would do nothing to lift the average American up — would do nothing to lift up the global image of America. In essence, the only thing Trump can guarantee is that he will never be able to “Make America Great Again.”


Biden’s first question was about the Trump administration’s lack of federal action on the coronavirus and what policies Biden would put in place. Biden emphasized that he would always “follow the science” when making decisions such as locking down the economy. He stressed the need for a national standard for coronavirus protections, including widespread coronavirus testing and tracing. He criticized Trump for giving more relief aid to large corporations than small businesses and leaving state governors to form their own policies.

When asked if he would mandate that all citizens take a coronavirus vaccine, Biden said he would encourage people to take it but a mandate would depend on the vaccine, the plan for distribution and the spread of coronavirus. 

Biden was also pressed on whether or not he regretted championing the 1994 Crime Bill, which some claim was prejudiced against minorities. Although he said he opposed funding state prisons and drug courts, Biden overall defended the bill because of the Violence Against Women Act and funding for community policing. Biden also outlined his plans for police reform including increasing de-escalation training, background checks and using psychologists and social workers to answer mental health emergency calls. Biden emphasized that he wanted to “increase transparency” in policing, not defund policing. 

Biden refused to give a clear answer to whether or not he would pack the courts if elected. He said he was “not a fan,” but that it would depend on how the Barrett confirmation hearings are handled. Biden promised to have a clear position on court-packing before election day.

Concluding a straightforward town hall, moderator George Stephanopoulos praised Biden: “You did a credit to our democracy today.”

Story by Olivia Hewang



Because Trump refused to attend an in-person debate, each candidate held separate Town Halls explaining their policies. I started watching Biden’s town hall with the expectation that it would be an opportunity for Biden to present his views on certain issues in a productive, informative manner without Trump interrupting him every five seconds. Although Biden was able to go in-depth about his policies, he often rambled, convoluting his main arguments and confusing the audience. 

The town hall started off with the obvious question of Biden’s thoughts on the United States’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden was clear when he presented his points about the necessity of masks and the urgency of a vaccine, but when he got into the economy during the pandemic, he lost me, and presumably many other viewers. Instead of presenting his opinions in a straightforward way, Biden just kept on talking and going off on tangents about Trump’s economy, ultimately failing to help his arguments much. 

What I was able to draw from Biden’s long-winded answer was something he said very clearly — in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, he’d always listen to science, something that our current president doesn’t believe in.

The conversation took an interesting but confusing turn when Biden was asked about his strategies to address the racial inequalities in the United States.

Biden emphasized the importance of not only leveling out the criminal justice system but also creating an environment in which Black people in America could succeed through increased funding and educational support systems. Biden’s response stood out to me in two ways. For starters, he actually had a detailed plan which incorporated specific funding, where that funding would come from and how it would be implemented, going beyond the surface-level comments we’re often met with that don’t propose any real solutions. While explaining his plan, he made sure that he wasn’t talking in a patronizing manner, as Trump often does, making it seem as if he was having a conversation with the voter who asked the question. This fostered a more productive conversation rather than a hostile one.

Admittedly, I was slightly disappointed when Biden started talking about his views on the climate. He said he supported fracking only with heavy environmental regulations, with vague promises to curtail the environmental impacts, which makes me feel as if some of what Biden said are empty promises. 

Biden’s best moment during the town hall was when he talked about LGBTQ+ rights. He was very clear that he’d simply change the law to reverse the anti-LGBTQ+ acts implemented by the Trump administration, showing some hope for our country’s journey toward equality. 

Biden talked about these points as well as others for a total of 90 minutes, and to be honest, it was pretty boring. But, I’d take boring over what we have in office currently any day.