The reviews are in for the first presidential debate of the 2020 general election, and there seems to be a consensus: that was a complete disaster.
From ABC News to CNN to Fox News, TV hosts and other commentators agreed that the first debate devolved into an incoherent mess — largely because President Donald Trump wouldn’t allow former Vice President Joe Biden to speak, repeatedly flaunting the rules on time limits by interrupting his Democratic opponent.
Immediately after the debate, ABC News host George Stephanopoulos called out what he described as the worst debate he had seen in his life.
“I have to speak personally here,” he said. “As somebody who’s watched presidential debates for 40 years, as somebody who’s moderated presidential debates, as somebody who’s prepared candidates for presidential debates, as somebody who’s covered presidential debates, that was the worst presidential debate I have ever seen in my life.”
— ABC News (@ABC) September 30, 2020
CNN anchor Jake Tapper echoed the sentiment.
“That was a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck,” Tapper said. “That was the worst debate I have ever seen. In fact, it wasn’t even in a debate. It was a disgrace. And it’s primarily because of President Trump. … We’ll talk about who won the debate, who lost the debate, but I can tell you one thing for sure: The American people lost tonight, because that was horrific.”
CNN correspondent Dana Bash agreed with Tapper. “That was a shitshow,” she said. “We’re on cable, we can say that. Apologies for being maybe a little bit crude, but that was really the phrase that I’m getting from people on both sides of the aisle on text, and it’s the only phrase that I can think of to really describe it.”
“That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,” says @JakeTapper about the first presidential debate between Pres. Trump and Joe Biden. “We’ll talk about who won the debate, who lost the debate … One thing for sure, the American people lost.” #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/wjMnUmt2WS
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) September 30, 2020
On NBC News, Savannah Guthrie kicked off the discussion this way: “We need to just pause for a moment, and say, ‘That was crazy.’ What was that?”
“It was a train wreck,” NBC News anchor Chuck Todd responded. “But it was a train wreck of the making of one person. I mean, we know who did it. President Trump did this.”
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) September 30, 2020
MSNBC anchor Brian Williams agreed: “What a dark event we have just witnessed.”
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) September 30, 2020
CBS News political analyst John Dickerson said, “When the stakes were that high, the debate couldn’t have been lower. It was not an equal opportunity experience. The president of the United States … was by far responsible for a greater share of the jaggedness at a time when America does not need jagged.”
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 30, 2020
Even Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, a consistent ally of the president, conceded the debate didn’t go how a lot of people would have liked, although he spun his criticism so as not to solely impugn Trump: “I grew up. I played hockey. We dropped the gloves every day. Some people probably think it’s too hot, but it was both sides.”
Later, on Fox & Friends First in the morning, political analyst Ron Meyer echoed the sentiment that emerged elsewhere: “Honestly, there wasn’t much great about this debate. In my opinion, it could be one of the worst debates in televised American history.”
Flipping through news channels last night and this morning, it’s the overwhelming takeaway from the debate: Regardless of which candidate you prefer, it was a debacle.
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