Presidential debate: Trump and Biden clash over Covid, race and foreign funds

23 October 2020, 04:08 | Updated: 23 October 2020, 09:24

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Donald Trump and Joe Biden have clashed over coronavirus, race issues and foreign funding during the final 2020 US presidential debate.

The two candidates began facing off in Nashville, Tennessee, at around 2am on Friday morning, more than three weeks after their first debate.

With less than a fortnight to go until election day, the final encounter between the pair was their last chance to impress the small number of US voters who are still unsure of where to cast their ballot.

The event was far more mild-mannered than the first debate earlier in the month, with Mr Trump appearing less hostile towards his Democratic rival and both providing a better insight into their policies.

During the exchange, a representative of the Commission on Presidential Debates had a mute button to ensure both had two full minutes uninterrupted to deliver opening answers on six major topics: Covid-19, American families, race, climate change, national security and leadership.

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They opened the debate by clashing over how the US had so far handled the coronavirus pandemic and what they would do to combat its spread.

Mr Trump insisted he had handled the worldwide outbreak well, saying the country needs to "learn to live with it".

However, his Democratic rival hit back at the president, saying: "People are learning to die with it."

The president was accused of "ineptitude" by his rival, who refused to rule out further shutdowns across the country.

Mr Trump responded by saying lockdowns in Democrat-run cities, such as New York, had still failed to limit the numbers of people dying, adding: "The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself."

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Following an argument about who gets more funding from Wall Street, they then took questions on how they would deter foreign interference in American elections.

Responding to unfounded allegations from Mr Trump that he has received funds from Russian sources, Mr Biden noted that he has released 22 years of taxes, which, he said, show he has "not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life".

Pointing his finger at Mr Trump, Mr Biden asked: "What are you hiding?"

US officials recently reported that Russian hackers have targeted the networks of dozens of state and local governments in the US, stealing data from at least two servers.

Addressing this, the US leader said that nobody has been tougher on Russia than him, explaining that he had issued sanctions and pushed Nato for increased military spending during his administration.

Mr Biden then said his son did nothing inappropriate while working for a company in Ukraine while noting the president was the one who got impeached for dealings with that country.

In response, Mr Trump said the Democrat's son Hunter drew a large salary from a Ukrainian firm.

Mr Biden replied saying the accusation had been investigated repeatedly and did not link him to any wrongdoing.

He also noted that the president was impeached for attempting to pressure the president of Ukraine to find potentially damaging information on his family.

On healthcare, the Republican candidate claimed he had run Obamacare as well as he could, but said, "no matter how well you run it, it's no good".

Both then scrapped over which of the pair could do more to protect people with pre-existing conditions.

Asked about minimum wage, Mr Biden said it was the "right time" to raise it and to support small businesses. His rival responded by questioning how raising the base wage would help small firms, suggesting a state-by-state approach instead.

Mr Trump then defended his administration's separation of immigrant children from their families following detentions along the US-Mexico border.

The president said children are often brought across the border not by families but "by coyotes and lots of bad people".

Mr Biden disputed Mr Trump's answer, saying kids "were ripped from" their families in 2018, before the president accused his opposite man of setting up cages along the border during his time as vice president in the Obama administration.

Donald Trump was later accused of being "one of the most racist presidents we've had in modern history" and pouring "fuel on every racist fire".

He replied by portraying himself as a champion of black people, saying: "I am the least racist person in this room," and that with the "possible exception of Abraham Lincoln", no other president had done as much for African Americans as him.

The two also sparred over the nation's reliance on oil and what is required to reduce future emissions.

Mr Biden said the US needs to embrace clean energy and eventually transition away from the use of oil.

Mr Trump quickly pounced, cutting in with "that's a big statement", and wondered aloud if voters in oil-producing states like Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania were listening.

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