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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8:38 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:

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: