MIAMI — President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made their cases to voters in separate town hall-style events Thursday night, just days after a virtual debate scheduled for the same date was scrapped.
Although organizers initially had planned for both candidates to appear in person for a debate Thursday, Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis prompted the Commission on Presidential Debates last week to switch the format to virtual, according to The Associated Press. Trump, however, opposed the change and announced he wouldn’t take part.
Biden later agreed to appear in an ABC News-hosted town hall event in Philadelphia, while Trump opted for a separate town hall hosted by NBC News in Miami, the AP reported.
Here are five memorable moments from Trump’s town hall, moderated by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie:
1. Trump denounces white supremacy, denies knowing about QAnon.
When Guthrie asked Trump to clarify comments he made about white supremacy in the first debate, he fired back, “Oh, you always do this.”
“I denounce white supremacy, OK?” he replied, later adding: “I’ve denounced white supremacy for years, but you always do it. You always start off with the question. You didn’t ask Joe Biden whether or not he denounces Antifa.”
Trump continued: “And frankly, you want to know something? I denounce Antifa, and I denounce these people on the left that are burning down our cities, that are run by Democrats who don’t know what they’re doing.”
Guthrie then shifted to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
“All right, while we’re denouncing, let me ask you about QAnon,” she said. “It is this theory that Democrats are a satanic pedophile ring and that you are the savior of that. Now, can you just, once and for all, state that that is completely not true?”
Trump said he knows “very little” about the topic.
“I do know they are very much against pedophilia,” he said. “They fight it very hard, but I know nothing about it.”
Trump then referenced Antifa again, saying he knows “about the radical left.”
“I know how violent they are and how vicious they are,” he added. “And I know how they are burning down cities run by Democrats, not run by Republicans.”
2. Trump unclear on whether he had coronavirus test day of previous debate.
When Guthrie asked Trump whether he’d had a coronavirus test the day of the first debate – which occurred just days before he announced his COVID-19 diagnosis – the president remained ambiguous.
“I probably did, and I took a test the day before and the day before, and I was always in great shape, and I was in great shape for the debate,” he replied, adding that he isn’t tested daily but does “take a lot of tests.”
“OK, and you don’t know if you took a test the day of the debate?” Guthrie asked.
“Possibly I did; possibly I didn’t,” Trump said.
3. Trump weighs in on questions about his finances, debts.
Guthrie also asked Trump to respond to a recent New York Times investigation into his taxes and debts.
“It says that you have debts of approximately $421 million that you have personally guaranteed, and that will come due in the next four years,” Guthrie said of the report. “The question is, on behalf of voters, who do you owe $421 million to?”
Trump replied that he has a “very, very small percentage of debt” compared to his total assets.
“It sounds like you’re saying $400 million isn’t that much,” Guthrie said. “But are you confirming that, yes, you do owe some $400 million?”
“What I’m saying is that it’s a tiny percentage of my net worth,” he responded.
He added that he doesn’t owe money to Russia or any “sinister people.”
4. Trump weighs in on transfer of power.
When Guthrie asked Trump whether he’d accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, he said he would if it’s an “honest election.”
“When I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can, and they happen to have my name on it, I’m not happy about that,” he said.
Guthrie pointed out that “there is, in fact, no evidence of widespread [voter] fraud” – a fact that FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed in recent testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, according to CNN.
“You are sowing doubt about our democracy,” Guthrie said.
5. Audience member praises Trump’s smile.
In one of the lighter moments from the event, voter Paulette Dale complimented the president’s appearance before asking a question about immigration.
“I have to say, you have a great smile,” she said, to which Trump replied, “Got you. Thank you.”
She continued: “He does. You’re so handsome when you smile.”