Trump, Biden Spar Over COVID-19 Response and Economy

September 29, 2020 Updated: September 30, 2020

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden sparred over COVID-19 during Tuesday’s debate over the White House’s response and a potential vaccine.

“It’s China’s fault … it should have never happened,” President Trump said at the debate in Cleveland, Ohio. The president said that “you don’t know [the number] people who died in China. You don’t know how many people died in Russia,” referring to incomplete or inaccurate reports from the Kremlin and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Trump then suggested Biden “wouldn’t have closed [the United States] for another two months.”

Biden then recounted statements that Trump made to the press about his predictions.

“This is the same man who said that by Easter, it would have all gone away,” the former vice president said. “I don’t trust him at all … what we trust is the scientists.”

trump and biden
President Donald Trump listens to Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sept. 29, 2020. (Morry Gash/Pool/AP Photo)

He added that “200,000+ people have died from coronavirus due to your lack of action,” referring to Trump.

At the same time, Biden cast doubt on Trump’s recent announcements about producing a vaccine by November.

“This man is talking about a vaccine,” Biden added. “Every serious company is talking about maybe having a vaccine done by the end of the year.”

At some points, the exchange between the two candidates was contentious, with Trump talking over Biden, and Biden responding: “Will you shut up?” Trump later said, “Don’t ever use the word smart with me…because you know what, there’s nothing smart about you, Joe.”

Trump stated that millions would have died if Biden would have been in charge, saying that Biden would call it xenophobic to shut down travel from China—and added that it saved thousands of lives.

But Biden came back and accused Trump of allowing the U.S. economy to shut down, saying he provided “no help to small businesses.”

The 90-minute debate, with a limited and socially distanced in-person audience due to the coronavirus pandemic, took place at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, with Chris Wallace of Fox News serving as the moderator.

It is the first of three scheduled debates. Trump arrived in Cleveland aboard Air Force One, and finished a 20-minute preview visit to the debate venue shortly before Biden landed in the city with some of his top advisers: Jake Sullivan, Ron Klain, Mike Donilon, and sister Valerie Biden Owens.

Reuters contributed to this report.