First 2020 presidential debate

By Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Kyle Blaine and Jessica Estepa, CNN

Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT) September 30, 2020
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12:49 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

4 key moments from tonight's messy debate

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden exchange arguments during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29.
President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden exchange arguments during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Tonight’s presidential debate made for a chaotic first foray between Joe Biden and Donald Trump since the start of the general election race.

Trump was intent on interrupting Biden on nearly every question and the former vice president wasn't above name-calling, calling the President a “clown” and telling him to “shut up.”

In case you missed tonight's debate, here are four key moments:

Trump addresses the New York Times report on his taxes

The President offered a simple defense for the low amount of income taxes he’s paid over the years: “I don’t want to pay tax.”

At the same time, however, Trump also insisted that he pays millions in taxes, contradicting the New York Times’ reporting, which indicated that he paid $750 in income taxes in 2016 and 2017.

Different realities on the coronavirus

Biden, citing the staggering coronavirus death toll and case number in the US, said, “The President has no plan. He hasn’t laid out anything.”

Trump, however, insisted that Biden “could not have done the job we did.”

The President also brought up his administration's plan to quickly distribute a coronavirus vaccine, but Biden questioned why Americans should trust someone who lies so frequently.

“This is the same man who told you by Easter this would be gone away. By the warm weather, it’d be gone — like a miracle. And by the way, maybe you could inject some bleach into your arm," Biden said.

Biden responds to Trump’s attacks on his son, Hunter

Reacting to Trump's repeated unfounded and false claims about Hunter Biden acting corruptly in Ukraine, the former vice president said, "This is not about my family or his family, this is about your family — the American people.”

“He doesn't want to talk about what you need,” Biden added.

At another point in the debate, Trump raised Hunter Biden's past issues with drug addiction.

"My son had a drug problem, but he's overcome it and I'm proud of him,” Biden responded.

Trump refuses to condemn white supremacists

Trump refused to explicitly call out white supremacists for inciting violence at anti-police brutality demonstrations across the country, saying during the debate that the violence wasn’t an issue caused by the right and telling one far-right group to “stand back and stand by.”

“Sure, I’m willing to (tell them to stand down), but I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing. I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace,” Trump said.

“Who would you like me to condemn?” Trump asked moderator Chris Wallace. “Proud Boys — stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what. ... Somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem(.)” 

12:55 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Fact check: Trump’s claim on Biden’s health care plan

From CNN's Tami Luhby

President Donald Trump tried to paint former vice president Joe Biden’s health care plan as the same as “Medicare for All,“which was promoted by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and would have shifted the nation’s health insurance to a single government-run program. 

“You are going to extinguish 180 million people with their private health care that they are very happy with. You’re going to socialist medicine,” Trump said.

12:35 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Fact check: Biden's claim about Trump's jobs record

From CNN's Anneken Tappe

Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed that President Trump is “going to be the first President of the United States to leave office having fewer jobs in his administration than when he became President.”

12:34 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Fact check: Trump claims Biden called African Americans "super predators"

From CNN's Andrew Kaczynski

In attacking Joe Biden for his advocacy of the 1994 crime bill, President Trump claimed that Biden had called African Americans “super predators.”

“He did a crime bill,” Trump said. “1994. Where you called them super predators. African Americans. Super predators. And they’ve never forgotten it. They’ve never forgotten it.”

1:36 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Republicans Santorum and Jennings: Trump performed poorly at debate

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Republicans Rick Santorum and Scott Jennings agreed that President Trump's antics took the conversation away from core GOP issues during tonight's debate and at times were offensive.

"If I was a Republican elected official, if I was someone running for office right now, I'd be pretty mad at him... He indulged himself," Santorum said.

Santorum added, that while he believes that Trump has a winning message and policy, and had an overall edge over Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during the debate, Trump's behavior overshadowed that.

"We can't win with a center-right campaign if we have someone who is as caustic as what the President is in this debate... Donald Trump's personality ran wild tonight," he said.

Jennings told CNN's Anderson Cooper that Trump's strategy of being on the offense turned into "just being offensive."

Jennings also slammed the President for not condemning white supremacists.

"He's going to have to speak for himself on this. He's going to have to clean this up. He has to clear it up. It's the wrong answer. It's always been the wrong answer. There is a clear right answer to these questions which is, 'Anyone that is committing violence, left, right, white, black, up, down, if you're in a city and you're committing violence and you're doing it in the name of white supremacy... you're all the same, you're hurting America. So, go home and stop it.' It's always been the right answer. It's always been that clear and the fact that he can't look into the camera and say it is a problem," Jennings said.

12:08 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Fact check: Biden claims US trade deficits with China and Mexico increased under Trump

From CNN's Katie Lobosco

Former Vice President Joe Biden suggested that the United States currently has a higher trade deficit with both China and Mexico than it has had before.  

12:04 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Biden campaign expresses intent to participate in final two debates despite chaos

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

The Biden campaign broke its single hour fundraising record during the debate, raising $3.8 million between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., the campaign’s Kate Bedingfield announced on a post-debate press call. 

Asked if they still believe it is worth debating President Trump given the chaos of tonight’s debate, the campaign expressed its intent for Biden to continue participating. 

“We are going to the debates, yes,” Bedingfield said, committing to the final two presidential debates. 

“Joe Biden's gonna show up,” said Bedingfield. “He's gonna continue speaking directly to the American people. The next debate is a town hall format where real voters are going to have the chance to engage the candidate. Biden obviously relishes any opportunity to talk directly to real voters, that’s something that he prioritizes doing on the campaign trail.” 

She said that there will be “ongoing discussions with the commission" about "formats and rules," adding, "we think the opportunity for Biden's address the American people directly as is powerful." She did didn't provide any changes they are considering following tonight's debate. 

Bedingfield argued that the debate did Trump a “disservice” and casted him as “weak.” She said she thinks the President came across as “somebody who believes that he is losing this race. I think that was readily apparent written all over his face.” 

Asked if they'd had a chance to ask Biden how he felt and if he had expressed regret about any of the lines he threw at the President, Bedingfield replied, "He expressed regret that the President of the United States chooses to conduct himself this way on the national stage and on the international stage."   

12:02 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Here's what undecided voters thought of tonight

This is what undecided voters said about tonight's first presidential debate:

11:58 p.m. ET, September 29, 2020

CNN Poll: 6 in 10 say Biden won the debate

From CNN's Jennifer Agiesta

Six in 10 debate watchers said former Vice President Joe Biden did the best job in tonight’s debate, just 28% say President Donald Trump did, according a CNN Poll of debate watchers conducted by SSRS. 

In interviews with the same voters conducted before the debate, 56% said they expected Biden to do the better job while 43% expected that Trump would. 

The post-debate result is about the same as the outcome of a post-debate poll in 2016 after the first debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton. In that poll, 62% thought Clinton won the debate, 27% said Trump did. 

About two-thirds said Biden’s answers were more truthful than Trump’s (65% Biden to 29% Trump), and his attacks on the President were more frequently seen as fair. Overall, 69% called Biden’s attacks on Trump fair while just 32% said Trump’s attacks were fair. 

The survey is designed to be representative of those registered voters who watched tonight’s debate; it does not represent the views of all Americans. The voters who watched the debate were more partisan than Americans as a whole, 35% identified as independents or non-partisans compared with around 40% in the general public, and the group of debate watchers was more Democratic than a typical survey of all adults, with 39% identifying as Democrats and 25% as Republicans.

The CNN post-debate poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone and includes interviews with 568 registered voters who watched the Sept. 29 debate. Results among debate-watchers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 6.3 percentage points. Respondents were originally interviewed September 22-27 either by telephone or online, and indicated they planned to watch the debate and would be willing to be re-interviewed when it was over. Respondents initially reached online are members of the SSRS Opinion Panel, a nationally representative probability-based panel.