President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden participated in separate town halls Thursday evening that were supposed to be the same format: questions from voters in swing states.
But NBC’s Savannah Guthrie grilled Trump during the first 18 minutes of his town hall, pressing him on everything COVID to white supremacists to the conspiracy theorists QAnon.
Trump chafed at Guthrie’s questions, including whether he had taken a COVID-19 test on the day of his debate with Biden, as required by the debate commission.
“Possibly I did. Possibly I didn’t,” Trump dodged.
Trump grew testy several times as Guthrie continued to question him. “You always do this” the president when asked why he has repeatedly refused to disavow white supremacy. Trump at one point sarcastically called Guthrie “so cute.”
Biden’s town hall began with a far less confrontational tone, with people from the audience, both Democrats and Republicans, asking the former vice president questions about the coronavirus pandemic, vaccine, tax cuts and race.
Biden repeatedly attacked Trump for his administration’s failure to contain the virus and for not acknowledging the threat of the pandemic early on.
“What we should be doing now, there should be a national standard (in dealing with the pandemic). It’s the president’s responsibility to lead, and he didn’t do that … He kept worrying about the stock market,” Biden said.
Pressed by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on his support for the 1994 crime bill, Biden said it was a mistake to support that measure, which imposed mandatory prison sentences for repeat offenders and offered grants for states to build prisons.
“It had a lot of other things it in that turned out to be good and bad … What I was against was giving states more money for prison systems that they can build,” Biden said. “I don’t believe anybody should be going to jail for drug use. They should be doing mandatory rehabilitation. We should be building rehab centers.”
But NBC’s Guthrie seemed to be more aggressive throughout the NBC forum. Even after she opened the town hall to voters questions, she repeatedly followed up and pressed Trump on his answers to those in the audience.
When one voter asked Trump what his plan was for replacing Obamacare, the president touted his administration’s steps to dismantle that landmark health care law. Guthrie interjected to note that Trump had been in office for near four years but had not been able to enact a replacement law.