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Heckled by Trump, Biden calls fiery debate ‘a national embarrassment’

Tuesday night’s debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden had all the civility of a mud-slinging contest. With constant interruptions and insults, the event devolved into what Biden later called “a national embarrassment.” Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News struggled to retain control as the men exchanged personal attacks -- and little of substance. Amna Nawaz reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It was anything but politics as usual.

    The country is still talking tonight about what happened last night in Cleveland. It was billed as a presidential debate, but had all the civility of a children's food fight.

    Amna Nawaz begins our extensive coverage.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    After a bruising first debate, the candidates were back on the campaign trail today and back to trading barbs.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    Trump has no plans, no ideas, didn't express a single plan that he had how he was going to move forward. I think it was just a national embarrassment.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We're hitting what people want, law and order, which Biden was unable to even talk about it because he'd lose the radical left, his radical left followers. I don't think there's too many of them left.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The night before began with a civil, socially distanced greeting, but quickly devolved into chaos.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    It's on the ballot, in the court.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I don't think so.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    In the court. Well …

  • President Donald Trump:

    There's nothing happening there.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Moderator Chris Wallace's very first question on the Supreme Court vacancy set off the first back and forth.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We won the election. Elections have consequences. We have the Senate, we have the White House, and we have a phenomenal nominee.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    The issue is, the American people should speak. Vote now.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Are you going to pack the court?

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    Make sure you, in fact, let people know.

  • President Donald Trump:

    He doesn't want to answer the question.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    I'm not going to answer that question because…

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The president repeatedly sought to paint Biden as a far-left candidate.

  • President Donald Trump:

    If you say those words, you're going to lose all of your radical left supporters.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    My party is me. Right now, I am the Democratic Party. I am the Democratic Party right now.

  • President Donald Trump:

    And they're going to dominate you, Joe. You know that.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And Mr. Trump defended his pandemic response, as the U.S. death toll crossed 206,000 American lives.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    He said it is what it is. Well, it is what it is because you are who you are. That's why it is.

    The president has no plan.

  • President Donald Trump:

    If we would've listened to you, the country would have been left wide open. Millions of people would have died, not 200,000. And one person is too much.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    On the racial justice protests against police brutality, the president returned to his message of law and order.

  • President Donald Trump:

    He has no law enforcement support.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    That's not true.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Name one group that supports you.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    I'm totally opposed to defunding the police officers. They need more assistance.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    As Biden argued the president's rhetoric is fueling racial tension..

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    This is a president who has used everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred, racist division.

  • Chris Wallace:

    But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and…

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In one stunning moment, when asked by the moderator to explicitly condemn white supremacists, the president dodged.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I will tell you what. Somebody's got to do something about Antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Mr. Trump spent much of the 90 minutes heckling and interrupting the former vice president, at times sparking frustration.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    Will you shut up, man?

  • President Donald Trump:

    Listen, who is on your list, Joe?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The moderator struggled to maintain control.

  • Chris Wallace:

    I think that the country would be better served if we allow both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I am appealing to you, sir, to do that.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Well, and him too.

  • Chris Wallace:

    Well, frankly, you have been doing more interrupting than he has.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And personal attacks punctuated the debate.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    You're the worst president America has ever had. Come on.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Hey — hey, Joe, let me — let me just say, Joe, I have done more in — in 47 months, I have done more than you've done in 47 years, Joe.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Building to a heated exchange, after Biden cited reports of the president disparaging military members as losers, and the president attacked one his sons.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    My son was in Iraq. He spent a year there. He got the — he got the Bronze Star. He got the Conspicuous Service Medal. He was not a loser. He was a patriot.

    And I resent like hell …

  • President Donald Trump:

    Are you talking about Hunter? Are you talking about Hunter?

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    I'm talking of my son Beau Biden. You're talking about Hunter.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I don't know — I don't know Beau. I know Hunter. Hunter got thrown — Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged for cocaine use.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    That's not true, he wasn't dishonorably …

  • President Donald Trump:

    And he didn't have a job until you became vice president. And once you became vice president …

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    None of that is true.

  • Lorraine Zapata:

    I was not impressed with the lack of decorum.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Six voters from both parties and across the country joined me to watch the debate. They all came away feeling more frustrated than informed.

  • Lorraine Zapata:

    To see the kind of behavior that was exhibited, it was very disappointing.

  • Bruce Penuel:

    I was very disappointed that they were fighting with each other. They were very personal in some of their discussions, just bringing family into it.

  • Lexton Smith:

    I don't think either one was able to express their — express any substance and point. And it was all a rehash of the things that I had heard earlier.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Raise your hand if you feel like you learned something. Nobody learned anything new.

    The Commission on Presidential Debates issued a statement today, saying — quote — "Last night's debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues."

    Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris will debate on October 7. The next presidential debate is scheduled for October 15.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

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