By Annah Johnson
Dueling town hall meetings were held simultaneously on different networks in place of the cancelled second presidential candidate debate Thursday night, Oct. 15 and President Donald Trump channelled his signature grandiose, aggressive style of conversation all evening. Trump’s town hall was hosted in the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida. This event was led and moderated by NBC broadcast journalist Savannah Guthrie. The town hall style meeting was a breath of fresh air for the viewers in comparison to the previous presidential candidate debate on Sept. 29. Voters that represented all crossings of the traditional party lines were in attendance and were able to directly address their questions to the president.
The meeting began with some questioning about Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis directly from Guthrie. He was asked if he had any remaining symptoms of the virus, to which he cyclically replied that he feels “great.” Next came a slew of questions from Guthrie that have been brewing among the American people concerning the specifics of his diagnosis. Trump explained that he “didn’t feel good, didn’t feel strong” and had mild symptoms. He claims that he felt better after he received the experimental drugs Remdesivir and Regeneron.
“They said that the lungs are a little bit different, perhaps infected,” Trump said when asked if there was any sign of pneumonia. What his lungs were perhaps infected with, he responded “I don’t know, I mean I didn’t do too much asking.”
The uncertainty of the specifics of his condition during his time at the Walter Reed Medical Center, and the apparent avoidance of disclosing that information by his doctor leave many unanswered questions. Seemingly, they still were not answered tonight.
Guthrie pushed on to inquire about Trump’s last negative COVID-19 test, to which he replied, “I test quite a bit.” Followed by a question about the frequency of his tests where he explained that he takes a lot of them, but does not get tested every day. He said he did not recall whether or not he was tested the day he debated Joe Biden.
Trump was then questioned on the importance of the Rose Garden event in relation to the outbreak of COVID-19 among attendees. His defense centered around the idea that he is the president and has an obligation to be at and hold these events. Then he repeated many times that he “can’t be locked in a room someplace.”
Further questioning along the lines of the COVID-19 outbreak ended in quite a bit of bickering about the facts surrounding mortality rates, lockdowns across the country, mask wearing effectiveness, herd immunity, and his example of leadership by downplaying the role that masks play in preventing the spread of the virus.
Guthrie switched focus to the question Trump was asked during the Sept. 29 debate regarding him denouncing white supremacy.
This time Trump replied: “I denounce white supremacy, and frankly, you wanna know something? I denounce Antifa, I denounce these people on the left that are burning down cities.”
Trump became very defensive and mentioned frequently that nobody ever asks Joe Biden if he denounces Antifa, but he is always asked the “white supremacy question.”
Quickly running off of the momentum from the previous question, Guthrie asked if Trump could denounce the validity of QAnon. Trump claims to have no knowledge of the organization beyond their fight against pedophilia, even though Guthrie had explained the troubling conspiracy theories surrounding the group currently. He aggressively brought the conversation back to what he did know about Antifa and the radical left, and asked why Guthrie won’t ask Biden about the dangers surrounding those groups.
“Because you are here before me,” she said.
Trump then chuckled, “so cute.”
This was one of many passive-aggressive comments Trump made to Guthrie during the Town Hall.
Guthrie pivoted to the recent perpetuation of a conspiracy theory surrounding the death of Osama Bin Laden, which Trump swiftly dismissed as simply a retweet and not necessarily a reflection of him. Trump then went on the defensive, rehashing his criticisms of the media and defending social media as the only way he can let his voice be heard.
Last in Guthrie’s lineup of questions was the topic of peaceful transfer of power. Trump stated that he will accept the results of the election, but only if he knows it was fair. He proceeded to throw out unsturdy examples of voter fraud and used them as evidence for an election being unfair. When Guthrie tried to assure Trump that these isolated cases are rare and statistically insignificant, he pushed back.
“You read the newspapers don’t you?” Trump said.
The floor then opened to a diverse crowd of attendees to ask their questions.
The first town hall attendee asked Trump why, if he knew the dangers of the virus in February, did he not put in place other measures beyond a travel ban from China. Trump reiterated that he started putting in precautions before anybody recommended it and didn’t want to panic the American public.
The following question asked what protections he would put in place to assist frontline workers and get the economy back on track. He said he protected a “phenomenal” third quarter coming up in early November, touted low unemployment rates, and explained that he has sent millions of dollars to hospitals.
After he had been infected with COVID-19, the next attendee asked if his opinion on the importance of masks has changed. “No, because I was okay with the masks, I was good with it, but I’ve heard many different stories on masks,” he said.
A question about healthcare costs came up next. Trump explained that he has removed the individual mandate of Obamacare, managed it much better, and wants to terminate it. His aim is to replace it with something more affordable and protect those with preexisting conditions, but he provided no details on what the replacement would look like.
The question following was regarding a second Coronavirus Relief Package. Trump’s response centered heavily around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocking his efforts to provide a stimulus check to Americans.
Corporate tax rates have been cut under Trump’s administration, and another audience member asked what he would tell a voter who felt that was the wrong thing to do. Trump cited the plethora of job creation and flood of companies moving to the United States that was initiated by the corporate tax cuts put in place. Though, the benefits of the tax cuts before the COVID-19 pandemic are not as apparent now.
Guthrie chimed in to ask about the new information made public about his taxes. Trump complained that the Internal Revenue Service treats him badly, and assured that the $421 million he owes pales in comparison to his net worth.
Trump was asked by the next attendee what he would say to a voter who finds it hypocritical to push a U.S. Supreme Court nominee so close to an election after his party’s frustrations with his predecessor doing so before an election.
“The whole ball game changed when I saw the way they treated Justice Kavanaugh. I have never seen any human being, and I’m not just talking about Supreme Court … I have never seen a human being treated so badly …” Trump said, referring to the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings back in 2018. This, Trump said, prompted him to push the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett.
A self-proclaimed pro-life millenial took the microphone next, asking Trump if he would put in place measures to protect women with high-risk pregnancies if Roe V. Wade is overturned. Trump responded vaguely, stating that Barrett will make a decision and he did not want to say his thoughts one way or the other in an effort not to persuade that decision.
A mother of a young African-American man, and educator then asked Trump what he will do to better prepare law enforcement officers in community relations. Trump responded that he wants to make it easier for officers to do their jobs, and easier to enforce their authority. He then followed up with his previously claimed notion that he has done the most for the African-American community since Abraham Lincoln.
A daughter of European immigrants took the last question of the attendees to inquire about Trump’s pursuit to cut the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) programs for immigrants. He explained that he is welcoming of immigrants, as long as they come to the U.S. legally.
The town hall concluded with Trump directly addressing any undecided voters, “I’ve don’t a great job. We have the strongest economy in the world … The vaccines are coming out soon and our economy is strong. We are at a level with jobs like we’ve never been before. We’ve rebuilt our military. We’ve rebuilt our borders … We’ve given you the greatest tax cuts in the history of our country … And next year is going to be better than ever before.”