The first presidential debate between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. unraveled into an ugly melee Tuesday, as Mr. Trump hectored and interrupted Mr. Biden nearly every time he spoke and the former vice president denounced the president as a “clown” and told him to “shut up.”
During the chaotic, 90-minute event in Cleveland, Mr. Trump defended his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and deflected blame, referring to the virus as the “China plague.”
“It’s China’s fault,” he said of the crisis. “It should have never happened.”
In Beijing on Wednesday, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said the accusations leveled against the country during the debate were “groundless and untenable.”
Mr. Trump also voiced impatience with a range of public-health restrictions, while Mr. Biden criticized the president for being dismissive of measures like mask wearing and social distancing.
“He said, ‘It is what it is,’” Mr. Biden said, referring to Mr. Trump’s reaction when the country’s death toll from the virus surpassed 100,000 in May (the number is now over 200,000). “It is what it is, because you are who you are,” Mr. Biden said.
When Mr. Trump was asked about his statements regarding the availability of a vaccine before the election — which directly contradict his own health experts who say it will most likely not be publicly available before next summer — the president said they were wrong: “I’ve spoken to the companies and we can have it a lot sooner.”
Mr. Biden said, “We’re for a vaccine, but I don’t trust him at all and nor do you, I know you don’t. We trust the scientists.”