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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11:02 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Fact check: Biden’s claim about being the first president without an Ivy League degree

From CNN's By Subramaniam

According to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, the media claimed his election would set a precedent.

 "When you guys started talking on television about Biden, if he wins he’ll be the first person without an Ivy League degree to be elected President, I’m thinking who the hell makes you think I need an Ivy League degree to be President?”

Facts First: Not all past presidents graduated from college, let alone from the Ivy League. If elected, Biden would be the first president without an Ivy League degree since Ronald Reagan.

9:08 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Biden: I benefited from White privilege

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday. Gabriella Demczuk for CNN

In one of his interviews with journalist Bob Woodward, President Donald Trump was asked if he believed he’d benefited from “White privilege.”

Trump said no – and mocked Woodward for even suggesting it.

Biden got the same question on Thursday night. His answer: Yes.

“Sure, I benefited just because I didn’t have to go through what my Black brothers and sisters have had to go through,” Biden said.

Biden didn’t go any further on the subject, though, again framing the choice between him and Trump as one centered fundamentally on class.

“Growing up here in Scranton, we’re used to guys to look down their nose at us,” Biden said. “We (are used) to people looking at us and thinking more suckers, look at us and think that we don’t, we’re not equivalent to them. If you didn’t have a college degree, you must be stupid.”

The former vice president, who served as a senator from Delaware for decades before that, noted news coverage that said he would be the first person without an Ivy League degree elected president. In fact, Biden and Harris are first Democratic ticket since 1984 with no Ivy League grad on it.

Biden attended the University of Delaware, before going on to the Syracuse University College of Law. Harris went to Howard University before returning out west to the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

"We are as good as anybody else," Biden said of himself and others from Scranton. "And guys like Trump, who inherit everything, and squandered what they inherited, are the people I've always had a problem with. Not the people who are busting their neck." 

Watch the moment:

8:38 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Fact check: Biden's claims about Trump's State of the Union address and Covid-19

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand and Tara Subramaniam

During the town hall, Biden criticized Trump for not warning the US about the coronavirus during this year's State of the Union address.

"Imagine had (Trump) at the State of the Union stood up and said — when back in January I wrote an article for USA Today saying, 'We've got a pandem-we've got a real problem' — imagine if he had said something. How many more people would be alive?" Biden said.

Facts First: Trump spent 20 seconds of his February 4 State of the Union address on the coronavirus. A few days later, Trump told Bob Woodward privately that the coronavirus is more deadly than the flu, after speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier that day. It's unclear what all Trump knew or believed about the coronavirus at the time of the address, though he continued to downplay it for weeks.

Here's what Trump said about the virus during the State of the Union:

Protecting Americans' health also means fighting infectious diseases. We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China. My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.

The USA Today article Biden wrote on January 27 criticized Trump's rhetoric around and approach to the coronavirus, writing, "The possibility of a pandemic is a challenge Donald Trump is unqualified to handle as president."

8:57 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Biden "looking forward" to debating Trump

From CNN's Dan Merica

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday. Gabriella Demczuk for CNN

Joe Biden said that his preparation for the three presidential debates against Donald Trump has so far been informal, but the former vice president said he is “looking forward” to taking on the President.

“I have gone back and talked about and looked at not only the things he said, but making sure I can concisely say what I’m for and what I’m going to do,” Biden said.

The Democratic nominee said there is not yet a person in his campaign playing Trump in debate preparation.

“There are a couple of people, they ask me questions if they were like as if they were President Trump,” Biden said. “But I’m looking forward to it.”

Trump said this week that he is preparing by doing what he does “every day, by just doing what I’m doing.”

Watch the moment:

9:03 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

There needs to be more accountability within police departments, Biden says

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday. Gabriella Demczuk for CNN

Law enforcement officers must be held more accountable, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said tonight during CNN's town hall when asked how Black parents should talk to their children about interacting with police.

"The vast majority of police are decent, honorable people. One of the things I've found is, the only people who don't like bad cops more than we don't like them are police officers. And so what we have to do is we have to have a much more transparent means by which we provide for accountability within police departments," Biden said.

As president, Biden said he would bring together a coalition of police chiefs, officers, unions and communities of color to "sit at the table and agree on the fundamental things that need to be done, including much more rigorous back ground checks that apply for and become police officers."

Watch Biden explain:

10:42 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Here's how Biden would ensure future elections don't face uncertainty about mail-in ballots being counted

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks with CNN's Anderson Cooper at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks with CNN's Anderson Cooper at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday. Gabriella Demczuk for CNN

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden laid out his plan for ensuring voters in future elections don't face the current uncertainty regarding mail-in ballots being counted, and decried President Trump's efforts to put into question the "legitimacy of the election."

"Firstly, I would not try to throw into question the legitimacy of the election like this President, and the people around him have done," Biden said in CNN's town hall. "Number 2, I would make sure that the post office, and I would move quickly to get states to agree, would open ballots before the actual deadline, that night. Because people have to mail-in. Number 3, what I am doing now, and I continue to do, is try very hard to get as many poll workers available who are qualified... to make sure that we have early voting, we have same day registration and we are in a position where we make sure that you are automatically registered once you become 18 years of age."

Biden added that he is "confident" there will be a "massive turnout" in November's election. He urged the American people to be informed about when and where they will vote. "Plan now," Biden said.

To learn more about important election deadlines and local voter resources visit CNN's voter guide.

Watch Biden explain:

8:50 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Biden criticizes Trump's reported comments about veterans

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

Joe Biden condemned President Trump's characterization — as reported by The Atlantic — of those killed and injured at war as "losers" and "suckers."

His answer came after a question at CNN's town hall from a woman whose mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma about how he would make health care affordable.

"My son died of cancer. Came home from Iraq, and I have to tell you, it really, really offended me, when he volunteered to go there for a year, and he came home because of stage 4 glioblastoma, and the President refers to guys like my son ... as losers. Losers," Biden said.

"Talk about losers," an angry Biden added.

He said coronavirus-related health coverage should be covered by the government, and touted his health care plan, which would preserve Obamacare and add a government-run "public option."

He also slammed Trump as his administration is backing an effort to undo the Affordable Care Act in court.

Watch the exchange:

8:47 p.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Biden says he's impressed by CDC director for "standing up" to Trump over masks

From CNN's Leinz Vales

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday. Gabriella Demczuk for CNN

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Thursday that he was impressed with Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for "standing up" to President Trump over wearing masks to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. 

"The rank-and-file people, the scientists are solid and they're serious," Biden said at a CNN town hall. "But you've seen how the President has tried to push things through and put a lot of pressure on them."

During a Senate committee hearing, Redfield said a face mask may provide better protection against coronavirus than a vaccine. Trump demeaned Redfield, saying the CDC chief was "confused" in his congressional testimony.

"Wearing this mask is about making sure, and when you wear it, making sure no one else gets sick," Biden said. "It's not to protect you so much, but to make sure you don't infect someone else. I call that a patriotic requirement. I call that what we should be doing right now. And if the President had done his job, had done his job from the beginning, all the people would still be alive."

Watch more:

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: