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Trump, Biden clash on coronavirus, race and health care

October 23, 2020

Coronavirus, race relations and health care took center stage during the final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Trump promised "success," with Biden promising "honor and respect."

Trump and Biden take the stage
Image: Jim Bourg/AP Photo/picture-alliance

US President Donald Trump and his election opponent, Joe Biden, sparred over a number of policy issues during the final presidential debate Thursday, with Trump portraying his opponent as an ineffective career politician, and Biden calling Trump "the most racist president in modern history."

Thursday's debate in the southern state of Tennessee came off as more civil compared to Trump and Biden's first face-off, which has been referred a "train wreck." Each candidate was given time to explain policy points with limited interruption; the opposing microphone was muted for each man's lengthier opening statements on topics.

The debate opened with each candidate fielding questions on coronavirus, before the discussion moved on to national security, election interference, North Korea, health care, economic stimulus, immigration, race relations, climate and the environment, and ending with a closing statement on leadership.

Read moreUS presidential election: The top 5 issues

Trump says US is 'rounding the curve' on COVID-19

In Trump's opening statement on the coronavirus, the president argued that the US was "rounding the curve" and that a vaccine would be "delivered in weeks." Trump also mentioned his own recovery from COVID-19, suggesting that he was now "immune."

Trump makes a point
Trump said coronavirus lockdowns would kill the US economy Image: Mike Segar/Reuters

Biden accused Trump of doing nothing to fight the pandemic, and of falsely claiming that it would be over soon. "You say people are learning to live with it, people are learning to die with it," Biden said of Trump's assessment of the pandemic in the US. 

Read moreBarack Obama slams Trump in Biden campaign speech

Trump's 'beautiful health care'

Trump accused Biden of planning to terminate private health care policies. "We have done an incredible job on health care and we're going to do even better," he said.  

Trump added, without providing specifics, that his health care plan would be an improvement on Obamacare, and it would be "beautiful health care."

Biden deflected Trump's accusation that the Democrat candidate advocates socialized medicine. 

"Everyone should have the right to affordable health care," Biden said of his potential health care plan. "This is something that's going to save people's lives ... We have to provide health insurance for people at an affordable rate and that's what I'd do."

USA I TV-Duell zwischen Donald Trump und Joe Biden
Biden said Trump takes advantage of race problems in the USImage: Mike Segar/Reuters

Trump most 'racist president in modern history'

Biden said he understood why Black parents feared for their children, and that there was "institutional racism in America." Trump said that he had done more for the Black community in the US than any president, "with the exception of Abraham Lincoln." 

Trump accused Biden of harming the black community in 1990s by supporting a crime bill when Biden was a senator.  

Read moreUS election: Trump bets on law-and-order campaign, again

When asked about the Black Lives Matter movement, Trump said he was the "least racist person in the room."

Biden responded with a degree of incredulity, saying of his opponent: "Abraham Lincoln here is the most racist president we have ever had in modern history," who uses a "dog whistle as big as a foghorn" in his politics.

Biden wants to 'transition from oil'

Trump claimed that the US had the "lowest level of carbon emissions."

"Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at India. It's filthy. The air is filthy," he said. Trump said he would not sacrifice US jobs for the sake of the Paris climate accord. He also said windmills "kill all the birds" and that producing them causes pollution.

Read moreOpinion: Trump's Paris climate accord exit isn't really a problem

Biden said he wanted to transition away from the oil industry to promote renewable energy. Trump accused him of trying to "destroy the oil industry." 

Biden said the US needed to move toward net-zero emissions and would rejoin the Paris climate accord.

What would they tell those who didn't vote for them?

In his closing remarks, Trump said that "we have to make our country totally successful, as it was prior to the plague coming in from China," adding that "success is going to bring us together; we are on the road to success."

Biden said "I am the American president and I represent all of you, and I will give you enormous opportunities to make things better." He pledged to bring "decency, honor and respect — and that's something you haven't had for the past four years."

Thursday night's debate was the last of the campaign. Americans go to the polls on Tuesday, November 3. 


Wesley Rahn Editor and reporter focusing on geopolitics and Asia