The dual town halls of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump, who are both running in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, are seen on television monitors at Luv Child restaurant ahead of the election in Tampa, Florida, U.S. October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Octavio Jones TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Joe Biden might as well have been sipping tea with George Stephanopoulos in his town hall, while President Donald Trump’s tense exchanges with Savannah Guthrie called for shots of whiskey. Regardless, both revealed a bit more of their plans for the next four years if they could be president during Thursday’s dueling town halls, and small helpings of news emerged as well.

Trump’s Town Hall

NBC’s Guthrie chose to push Trump on his four years in office rather than have a more subdued discussion focused on policy, at one point turning the “town hall” into more of an interview when she asked Trump to denounce QAnon, a conspiracy group that promotes the thought that there is a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles running a sex-trafficking ring and plotting against the president. Trump declined to do so, although he did say to Guthrie, in an answer that reflected the tension of the night, ““I denounced white supremacy for years but you always do it. You always start off with a question. You didn’t ask Joe Biden whether or not he denounces antifa.”

Guthrie followed up with a question about Trump’s recent retweet of a discredited conspiracy theory that Joe Biden had orchestrated actions to have an elite military unit killed to cover up the supposedly faked death of Osama bin Laden. Trump said with a shrug, “I’ll put it out there.” “I don’t get that,” Guthrie replied. “You’re the president. You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle.” 

Trump also defended his record on the coronavirus and said he was “feeling great” after his own bout with the illness. He said in the beginning that his “goal is to fight for you and your family.” Critics wondered why the tone of the town halls were so different. “How long will NBC go before giving an actual voter the chance to ask a question?” asked pollster Frank Luntz, who later called the “town hall” descriptor of the program “false advertising.”

Biden’s Town Hall

Biden’s town hall may have been calmer — one New York Times critic said he “struggled to regain consciousness” — but Biden also slipped in a couple revealing moments, including one where he said he would come out with a clear decision on court packing by Election Day. Critics noted that many will have voted by then, and also said the answer was more of a dodge than a direct response. Many have wondered whether or not Biden plans to expand the Supreme Court if he is elected president. He said in the past that he was “not a fan” of the idea, but Thursday he said it “depends” on how the Amy Coney Barrett nomination is handled and that he was “open to considering what happens.” 

Biden also said supporting the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was a mistake. The law increased federal penalties for many crimes, made some new crimes federal offenses, including drive-by shootings and carjacking, and added ones that could be punishable by death. It also increased funding for law enforcement on all levels and construction of new state prisons. Biden defended the thinking behind the law — “it was all about the same time for the same crime,” he said — and he shifted much of the blame to the states, saying, “The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally.” But he also said he regretted the effect the law had on the Black population and acknowledged the shift on racial justice issues. “Things have changed,” he said.

Biden hinted that he would support making masks and vaccinations mandatory, although he also admitted that those measures would be difficult to enforce. “You can’t say everyone has to do this,” Biden said, “but it’s like you can’t mandate a mask.” Biden also said he would take a vaccine by the end of the year and urge other Americans to do so, “if the body of scientists say that this is what is ready to be done and it’s been tested.” It’s hard to say, however, whether a vaccine would be available by then, as Pfizer announced Friday that it would not seek approval before mid-November. 

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Savannah Guthrie Hated Voter Questions, So She Took Over Townhall – The Federalist – 10/16/2020
While President Donald Trump focused on answering voter questions at his NBC News town hall in Miami on Thursday night, “Today Show” co-anchor and town hall moderator Savannah Guthrie decided her words were better.

Trump gets grilled as Biden coasts: Takeaways from the dueling town halls – Politico – 10/16/2020
It came off less like a split screen than a breach in the political universe – “Die Hard” versus “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

AP FACT CHECK: Rhetoric from Trump, Biden in the non-debate – PBS NewsHour – 10/16/2020
Here’s how some of the rhetoric Thursday night compared with the facts in the prime-time events and a day of campaigning.

Media becomes the story ahead of Election Day – Axios – 10/16/2020
With just weeks to go until Nov. 3, controversies surrounding the media seem to be gobbling up most of country’s attention.

FactChecking Biden’s Town Hall – FactCheck.org – FactCheck.org – 10/16/2020
At a televised town hall in Philadelphia, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made false and misleading claims on COVID-19, health insurance, the 1994 crime bill and more.

Opinion: Donald Trump’s horrifing QAnon dodge – CNN – 10/16/2020
The moment when he not only refused to denounce, but actually appeared to defend QAnon, a collective of conspiracists so extreme in its beliefs that one shudders to hear what its followers think.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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