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Dueling Presidential Town Halls: What the Candidates Said About Court-Packing, Trans Kids and More

presidential town halls

The second presidential face-off took the form of dueling town halls that aired at the same time Thursday night, forcing Americans to choose which candidate to watch.

President Trump's Miami town hall event with NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie seemed more like a sparring match at the beginning, especially on COVID.

In contrast, ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos went relatively easy on former Vice President Joe Biden, with a key exception on packing the Supreme Court.

When he asked where Biden stood on the issue of expanding the number of justices, Biden initially dodged and said he wanted the focus on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

"No matter what answer I give you, if I say it, that's the headline tomorrow," he insisted. "It won't be about what's going on now – the improper way they're proceeding," 

Stephanopoulos shot back "but don't American voters have a right to know?"

"They do have a right to know where I stand and they'll know where I stand before they vote," promised Biden.

"So you'll come out with a clear position before Election Day?" pressed Stephanopoulos.

"Yes, depending on how they handle this," responded Biden, referring to the Barrett nomination.

The former vice president did compliment the president on his Middle East peace deal, before denouncing his foreign policy as isolationist. 

And in one notable moment, he told a mother who said her eight-year-old-daughter is transgender that he fully supports decisions made by children to choose their own gender. 

"The idea that an eight- or ten-year-old child decides – you know 'I think I'd like to be transgender. That's what I'd like to be – it would make my life a lot easier.' There should be zero discrimination," said Biden. 

He did not elaborate on whether those children should make their own decisions about medical interventions like puberty blockers, hormones, and gender surgery, or on the rights of their parents.

One question for Biden that never came up: the New York Post story about newly revealed emails that showed Biden's son Hunter gave a Ukrainian energy executive the opportunity to meet Biden when he was vice president. Biden in the past has denied that he ever spoke to his son about his international business dealings.

The Biden campaign says there was no meeting on the official schedule.

The two candidates spent much of their time answering and defending their positions on COVID.

"We're in a situation where we have 210,000 plus people dead," said Biden, "and what he's doing –nothing. He's still not wearing masks."

Trump insisted that the pandemic is slowing. "It's rounding the corner and we have vaccines coming and the therapies coming," he said.

Trump also denounced white supremacists when asked by Guthrie, but he was fuzzy on the conspiracy theory known as QAnon. 

Initially, he said he didn't know anything about it, and then said, "What I do hear is that they are very strongly against pedophilia and I do agree with that."

Trump also spoke at length about Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, saying he doesn't know how she would weigh in on a post-election dispute. He also said that he hadn't discussed abortion with her because it would be inappropriate.

In all, the president spent 60 minutes answering questions from Guthrie and potential voters. Biden's town hall lasted 90 minutes and included questions from voters as well. 
The two are scheduled to meet in-person in Nashville next Thursday for the final presidential debate. 

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