Trump, Biden participate in duelling town halls

Updated: Oct 16,2020 04:09 GMT

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IANS

Washington, Oct 16 (IANS) US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden participated in two separate town hall events hosted on the same day and aired at the same time in lieu of the second presidential debate, which was cancelled last week.

The two events took place on Thursday night. While Biden's town hall was hosted by ABC News in Philadelphia, Trump's 60-minute appearance in Miami was organised by NBC News.

While Biden expressed regret for his past support of a controversial crime bill, the President defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump was grilled by NBC News anchor Savannah Guthrie on the last time he tested negative for the coronavirus before he was diagnosed, The Hill news website reported.

The President did not give a definitive reply and just said that he was tested "a lot".

On October 2, Trump had announced that he and the First Lady had tested positive for the disease. The revelation came just days after the first presidential debate on September 29.

Regarding the pandemic and the recent spike in the number of positive cases in the White House, the President said: "Everybody is tested and they are tested often. I am President. I have to see people. I can't be in a basement. I can't be in a room. I have to be out."

Trump was also pressed on a New York Times investigation that said he paid only $750 in income taxes in both 2016 and 2017 and is facing $400 million in debt payments coming due, the Hill news website reported.

The President claimed that the numbers were "wrong" but did not dispute the figures, claiming that the $750 was a "statutory fee" and describing the $400 million in debt as a "peanut".

When pressed about why he should get a second term in office, Trump said: "I've done a great job."

Meanwhile, Biden was grilled on several issues, including criminal justice reform, climate change and foreign policy.

In one of the most important moment during the town hall, Biden acknowledged that his past support for a decades-old crime bill that included mandatory minimums for drug offences was a "mistake".

"The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally... What we did federally you remember George, it was all about the same time for the same crime," the former Vice President said.

Regarding Trump's foreign policy accomplishments, Biden acknowledged that the President deserved "a little but not a whole lot" of credit.

"We find ourselves less secure than we've been," Biden said.

"I do compliment the President on the deal with Israel recently, but if you take a look we're not very well trusted around the world."

For both Biden and Trump, the dueling town halls on Thursday were among the final opportunities to pitch their candidacies before a prime-time television audience.

The two are still scheduled to face-off in the third presidential debate on October 22.

With only 19 days left before the November 3 Election Day, nearly 16 million Americans have already cast their ballots in early voting.

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