Election 2020: CNN town hall with Joe Biden

By Melissa Macaya, Kyle Blaine, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 8:54 AM ET, Fri September 18, 2020
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8:48 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Biden: This is a campaign "between Scranton and Park Avenue"

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

Former Vice President Joe Biden tried to cast the choice between him and President Donald Trump as a clash between wage-earning, blue collar Americans and a wealthy few, who profit off the work of others.

Asked by a patient advocate at a nearby cancer treatment center what he would do for health care workers, Biden suggested he would seek to up their wages before pivoting to a bigger picture criticism of Trump’s economic policy.

“I view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue,” Biden said. “All Trump can see from Park Avenue is Wall Street. All he thinks about as the stock market.”

Health care workers, who have been on the frontlines of the Covid crisis, he added, should be making more than $15 an hour.

Earlier in the evening, Biden said that Trump’s decision to downplay the pandemic early on – a decision Trump has subsequently claimed he made to prevent a “panic” – was, in fact, an effort, to keep the stock market from tanking and endangering his re-election.

He re-upped that line of attack here.

“All he thinks about as the stock market,” Biden said. “In my neighborhood in Scranton, not a lot of people (owned stock). We have to make sure that health care workers are paid, and paid a decent wage. At $15 an hour? It's not enough for a health care worker.”

See the moment:

8:42 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Biden says he never thought he'd see "such a thoroughly, totally irresponsible administration"

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speak
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speak Gabriella Demczuk for CNN

The behavior the White House administration has engaged in to discourage people from following sound scientific advice in an effort to thwart the coronavirus pandemic is "sick," former Vice President Joe Biden said tonight CNN's town hall.

"Quite frankly, they're sick. Think about it. Did you ever think, any of you, the attorney general say following the recommendations of the scientific community to save you and other people's lives is equivalent to slavery?" Biden said. "I've been doing this a long time. I never, ever thought I would see such a thoroughly, totally irresponsible administration."

See the moment:

8:35 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Biden calls attorney general comparing coronavirus lockdown to slavery "outrageous"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

Joe Biden said it was “outrageous” that Attorney General Bill Barr recently said nationwide lockdowns to combat the coronavirus were the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties” in history “other than slavery.”

“What Bill Barr recently said is outrageous,” Biden said, echoing other Democrats who condemned Barr’s comment on Thursday. “I will tell you what takes away your freedom, not being able to see your kid, not being able to go to the football game or baseball game, not seeing your mom or dad sick in the hospital, not being able to do the things, that’s what is costing us our freedom.”

Biden has sought to keep the focus of the presidential election on the coronavirus and President Donald Trump’s missteps, believing that his failures on the matter will cost him reelection.

“It’s been the failure of this President to deal with this virus, and he knew about it,” Biden said, noting that in January he wrote an opinion piece on the coming pandemic. “He knew the detail of it. He knew it in clear terms.”

Barr’s comments came while he was addressing a Constitution Day celebration hosted by Hillsdale College. The event’s host asked Barr to explain the “constitutional hurdles for forbidding a church from meeting during Covid-19.”

“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” Barr said as a round of applause came from the crowd.

Watch more:

8:42 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

What Biden says he wants to do to help Americans affected financially by the pandemic

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

Former Vice President Joe Biden laid out his plan tonight to help Americans affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

The question on getting Americans back to work was raised by Sheila Shaufler, who voted for President Trump in 2016. She claimed that many frontline workers are making much less than people on unemployment who she said have benefited from the stimulus payments.

Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, said he would first address the need for additional health care workers and "pay them in ways that is a living wage."

"So they don't have to live hand to mouth," he said.

Watch the moment:

8:30 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Biden: "Big difference" between Trump rallies and protests

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

Joe Biden defended peaceful protesters who gathered to protest racial injustice and police brutality over the summer, saying their gatherings were different than rallies President Donald Trump has held in recent weeks.

"Covid safety is a problem no matter where people are ... if they don't have a mask on," Biden said. But, he added, protesters "have a right to speak."

"There's a big difference between walking, moving along, and people sitting down cheek to jowl, shoulder to shoulder, a thousand of them, breathing on one another, indoors and out, that causes real, serious problems," Biden said.

Biden said governors should institute mask mandates now.

"What takes away your freedom is not being able to see your kid; not being able to go to a football game or a baseball game; not being able to see your mom or dad, sick in the hospital," he said.

This is how the moment played out:

8:23 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Biden: "I don't trust the President on vaccines. I trust Dr. Fauci"

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made it clear tonight during CNN's town hall that he does not trust President Trump when it comes to determining when a Covid-19 vaccine would be safe to take.

Biden threw his support emphatically behind Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"I don't trust the President on vaccines. I trust Dr. Fauci. If Fauci says a vaccine is safe, I would take the vaccine. We should listen to the scientists, not to the President," Biden said.

Muddled vaccine messaging: There’s no substantial disagreement between President Trump and the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the timeline for a coronavirus vaccine, Fauci said Thursday.

Fauci said Trump and CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield were “essentially” right Wednesday when they each gave what seemed like a different timeline for a potential coronavirus vaccine said Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Redfield told a Senate hearing that it would likely be the second or third quarter of next year – that means late spring or summer – before widespread vaccination could be underway in the US. Asked about this during a news conference later in the day, Trump said Redfield “made a mistake” and was “confused.” He said a vaccine will be available soon, possibly as early as next month.

Fauci did not see a big conflict.

“The apparent, and I say apparent because I don't think it really is a substantial disagreement regarding the President and the director of the CDC, is in the difference between the availability of vaccine doses and when they will, in practicality, be fully administered to everybody in the country,” Fauci said in an interview Thursday with Washington, DC, radio station WTOP.

Watch more:

10:33 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Biden calls Trump downplaying the pandemic "close to criminal" 

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden slammed President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying if he had acted earlier he would have saved many thousands of lives. Biden called Trump's lagged actions and downplaying of the virus "close to criminal."

"But he knew it. He knew it, and did nothing. It is close to criminal," Biden said at CNN's town hall.

Biden denied ever seeing a scenario where he would downplay the virus or downplay critical information because he did not want to cause panic.

"Not at all," Biden said. "The idea that you are not going to not tell people what you have been told that this virus is incredibly contagious — seven times more contagious than the flu — you breathe the air and you get it sucked into your lungs — what has he done?"

Biden told CNN's Anderson Cooper that back in March, he was calling for the need to have masks and have Trump "stand and tell us what is going in."

"We have to make sure we lay out to the American people, the truth. Tell them the truth," Biden said regarding the messaging that is needed to protect Americans from the pandemic.

Biden said there has never been a time where the American people have not been able to "step up," and added that Trump should "step down."


8:15 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Biden humanizes the coronavirus pandemic and discusses how he will address it

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden shared words of solace for those who have lost loved ones due to the coronavirus pandemic, including Shani Adams whose sister died after contracting the virus.

Adams asked Biden tonight during CNN's town hall what he would do to protect people at work if elected president.

At the heart of Biden's plan is the need for more Covid-19 testing, he said.

"I would lay out the broad strokes of what has to be done to make people safe in the workplace, and safe in school. And that requires us to have rapid testing, the protective gear available from the very beginning like this president hasn't done. Making sure we provide for the ability for workplaces to have the wherewithal to provide for the safety. That requires some federal funding, particularly kids going back to school," Biden said.

Biden criticized President Trump for failing to enact a federal mask mandate.

"The President continues to think that masks don't matter very much, although he says it and has these large gatherings with everybody around with no masks on. And it's extremely dangerous. And so there's a lot of people, a lot of people hurt. A lot of people not being able to see their families," he added.

Watch the moment:

8:04 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

CNN's town hall with Joe Biden has started

From CNN's Kate Sullivan and Eric Bradner

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and CNN's Anderson Cooper speak on stage at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and CNN's Anderson Cooper speak on stage at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday. CNN

CNN's town hall with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has begun. The former vice president will face questions from Pennsylvania voters in an unconventional setup due to the coronavirus pandemic — a drive-in town hall.

Biden's presidential campaign has made character its centerpiece, as the Democratic nominee casts the 2020 presidential race as a test of the "soul of the nation" against President Trump.

But he has also released a stream of policy proposals outlining what he would try to accomplish in office. And that platform is likely to be a focus tonight.

Here are some key policy issues that may take center stage:

  • The economy
  • Taxes
  • Health care
  • Education
  • Coronavirus
  • Race relations
  • Climate change
  • Foreign policy

Read about Biden's proposals on these topics here.