The candidates sparred over the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court and the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump interrupted and insulted Biden, attacking his education and saying that no one would attend his rallies.
“Don’t ever use the word smart with me,” Trump said. “There’s nothing smart about you, Joe.”
At another point, Biden said: “Would you shut up, man?”
Moderator Chris Wallace struggled to keep control, pleading with Trump not to interrupt several times. Finally exasperated about halfway through, Wallace started to shout.
“Stop!” Wallace said. Later he admonished Trump directly: “Mr. President, your campaign agreed that both sides would get two-minute answers uninterrupted. Why won’t you observe what your campaign agreed to?”
Wallace also challenged Trump to condemn white supremacists, but Trump deflected, saying of the Proud Boys, “Stand back and stand by.”
“Somebody’s gotta do something about Antifa and the left,” Trump added.
Biden repeatedly sighed in frustration, calling Trump a “clown,” saying that everything he says is a lie, and that he is racist.
“You are the worst president America has ever had,” he said at one point.
Trump shot back: “In 47 months I’ve done more than you have done in 47 years.”
Toward the end, Trump raised alarms about “fraud” in the election, saying that ballots are being “sold” and “dumped in rivers.” Asked if the Supreme Court should weigh in on the vote, Trump said, “I’m counting on them to look at the ballots, definitely.”
Trump also urged his supporters to monitor polling places.
“If I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that,” he said.
In response to a question, Biden agreed not to declare victory until the vote is certified.
Earlier, Biden attacked Trump as “Putin’s puppy.” Trump countered with an attack on Biden’s son, Hunter, bringing up his drug use and accusing him of receiving millions from companies in Ukraine, China and Moscow. Biden said the accusations had been discredited, and said he was proud that his son had overcome his drug problem.
In a segment on racial justice protests, Trump argued that the Obama administration had seen violent outbreaks in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore.
“Oh my Lord, this is ridiculous,” Biden said.
“Are you in favor of law and order?” Trump asked.
At one point early on, Wallace had a back-and-forth with Trump over Trump’s health care plan, which Wallace called “largely symbolic.”
“I guess I’m debating you, not him but that’s OK,” Trump said to Wallace. “I’m not surprised.”
Biden attacked Trump’s handling of the pandemic, while Trump argued that Biden would shut down the economy.
“This is the same man that said the virus would be gone in April,” Biden said. “By July, it’d be gone. By the warm weather, it’d be gone, like a miracle! And by the way, maybe you can inject some bleach into your arm!”
Trump said he was being sarcastic.
After the debate, CNN correspondent Dana Bash called it a “s—show.”
“That was a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck,” said Jake Tapper. “It wasn’t even a debate. It was a disgrace, and it’s primarily because of President Trump.”
Tapper also blamed Wallace for not enforcing the debate rules.
Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator, conceded in a panel discussion that Trump “overplayed his hand.”
“He came out way too hot,” Santorum said.
Van Jones also said the president’s refusal to disavow the Proud Boys was the most important moment.
“Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacy,” he said.