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Here are the wildly different questions asked in Trump and Biden’s dueling town halls

U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a live one-hour NBC News town hall forum with a group of Florida voters in Miami, Florida, U.S., October 15, 2020.
Reuters/Carlos Barria
US president Donald Trump takes part in an NBC town hall.
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US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden participated in the second presidential debate on Thursday, this time held virtually to accommodate safety considerations following Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis earlier this month.

Just kidding. The candidates appeared in dueling town halls at the same time on different networks, fielding different questions from different people in mutually exclusive forums that forced the American people to watch one town hall or the other, or worse, both back to back.

Reuters/Tom Brenner

There is perhaps no greater metaphor for the state of US politics than bifurcating one of the last opportunities voters have to evaluate the two candidates against each other. And there is perhaps no greater indicator of the state of the country than the noticeably different questions presented to each candidate by town hall hosts Savannah Guthrie (Trump) and George Stephanopoulos (Biden), and participating US voters.

Here are all the questions asked of Trump 🐘 and Biden 🐴 during their respective town halls. (Questions have in some cases been paraphrased or condensed.)

On coronavirus

🐘  Do you have symptoms? Did you have pneumonia? When did you test positive?

🐘  When did you last have a negative test?

🐘  Wasn’t the unmasked Rose Garden party a bad idea?

🐘  Do you really believe a military family gave you Covid-19?

🐘  As president, aren’t you setting a bad example by not wearing a mask?

🐘  Do you support herd immunity as a strategy?

🐘  If you knew Covid-19, as you told Bob Woodward in February, was airborne and deadlier than the flu, why did you only put in place a travel ban from China and not put in place other preventative measures?

🐘  Did your national security advisor warn you that this would be the greatest national security risk of your administration?

🐘  How are you going to get the US back on track both in terms of the economy and the pandemic?

🐘  Have your opinions on mask-wearing changed?

🐴  What would “following the science” mean for you on Covid-19, both at the beginning of the pandemic and moving forward?

🐴  How can you contain the pandemic without crushing the economy?

🐴  If a vaccine were approved between now and the end of the year, would you take it, and if you were to become president would you mandate it for everyone?

🐴  Do you expect the next debate to happen? Will you demand that Trump take a Covid-19 test?

Extremism and conspiracy theories

🐘  Why are you hesitant to denounce white supremacy?

🐘  Will you disavow QAnon in its entirety?

🐘  Do you really not know whether there’s a satanic pedophile ring, as QAnon suggests? 

🐘  Just this week, you tweeted a conspiracy theory that Joe Biden had Seal Team 6 killed to cover up the fake death of Bin Laden. Now why would you send a lie like that to your followers? You’re the president, you’re not someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever. 


🐴  What is your plan for extending tax cuts for the middle class or replacing it with a new plan?

🐴  Is it wise to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations in the midst of an economic crisis?

🐴   So there won’t be any delay on tax increases? 

🐘  Why do you want to lower the corporate tax rate and how does that help Americans?

🐘  Why won’t you release your tax returns, given that no law forbids you from doing so while you’re under audit?

🐘  Did you pay $750 in taxes in 2016?

Election results

🐘  Will you accept the results of the election?

🐘  Why are you laying the groundwork for not accepting the results right now?

🐴  The president is president for all four years, isn’t he?

🐴   If you lose, what would that say about the state of America today?

Race and discrimination

🐴  Besides “You ain’t Black,” what do you have to say to young Black voters who see voting for you as participation in a system that fails to protect them?

🐴  I’m a proud mom, my youngest daughter is transgender. The Trump administration has attacked the rights of trans people…How will you as president reverse this dangerous and discriminatory agenda and ensure that the lives and rights of LGBTQ people are protected?

Crime and policing

🐴  What’s your view on the crime bill that you wrote in 1994 that showed prejudice against minorities? What’s your stance on it now?

🐴  Was it a mistake to support the crime bill?

🐴  You’ve said more cops mean less crime. Do you still believe that?

🐘  What would you do to protect people of color from police violence?

The Supreme Court

🐴  What do you think about ideas from people like Pete Buttigieg to put in safeguards to put in more balance and stability in Supreme Court decisions, and what do you say to LGBTQ Americans and others who are very worried about the erosion of their rights?

🐴  You said “I would not get into court packing.” Is the nomination of judge Barrett reason enough for you to rethink your position?

🐴  Don’t voters have a right to know where you stand? Will you have a clear position by election day?

🐘  What do you say to the voter who thinks it’s hypocritical to fast track Amy Coney Barrett after the GOP stonewalled Merrick Garland in 2016?

🐘  Do you expect Amy Coney Barrett to rule in your favor in a contested election?

🐘  If Roe v Wade is overturned, what would the rules be on abortion if the mother’s life is in danger?

🐘  Would you like to see Roe v Wade overturned?


🐘  What is your plan in 2020 to make healthcare costs more affordable?

🐘  Isn’t your administration in court right now trying to repeal Obamacare, including the provision about pre-existing conditions?

The economy

🐘  What will you do to get another stimulus bill passed?

🐘  If you’re such a big dealmaker, why are the stimulus negotiations going so poorly?


🐴  Today we have highly partisan politics. As president, how will you avoid temptation to exact revenge and instead take the high road and restore civility?

🐴  Is there tension between political accountability and bringing people together? What would the Biden administration do with the evidence from Robert Mueller’s investigation?

🐴. You say that you committed to entering the race after Charlottesville in 2017. Hypothetically, if you lose, how will you use your platform to urge Donald Trump and those following him toward the idea of a more perfect union?

The climate

🐴  In 2012, fracking was discussed, and its possible implications to the waterways. Fracking has made populations sick and killed wildlife in southwest Pennsylvania. What industries that aren’t harmful to human health and the environment are you planning for Pennsylvania and the nation?

🐴  You said you don’t want to ban fracking. What do you say to people who doubt your denial of wanting to ban fracking?

🐴  You’re saying you’re not for the Green New Deal, but your website says it’s a crucial framework?


🐘  Will you continue to try to cut DACA in a second term?


🐘  What would you say to people who want to know why they should vote for you for a second term?

Foreign policy

🐴. Peace is breaking out all over the world, troops are coming home…Does president Trump’s foreign policy deserve some credit?

Personal debt

🐘  Who do you owe $421 million to?

🐘  Are you confirming that you do owe $421 million?

🐘  Is it a foreign bank or entity?

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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