Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Chris Wallace on the debate stage

2020 U.S. Presidential Debate

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Updated Oct 23, 2020 at 11:20AM EDT by Matt.

Added Sep 30, 2020 at 10:58AM EDT by Matt.

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Overview

The 2020 U.S. Presidential Debates are a series of televised debates between the 2020 Presidential candidates President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Vice President Joe Biden. The first of the debates took place on September 29th, 2020, with subsequent debates set to occur on October 15th and October 22nd. A vice presidential debate occured on October 7th, 2020.

Background

On August 6th, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD)[1] confirmed that both President Trump and former Vice President Biden confirmed their participation in the 2020 Presidential Debates. That day, the CPD announced the dates and locations for each debate:

First presidential debate:
Tuesday, September 29th, 2020
Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH

Vice presidential debate:
Wednesday, October 7th, 2020
The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Second presidential debate:
Thursday, October 15th, 2020
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami, FL

Third presidential debate:
Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
Belmont University, Nashville, TN

On September 2nd, 2020, the CPD[2] announced the Moderators for each debate. They are:

First Debate:
Chris Wallace, Anchor, Fox News Sunday

Vice Presidential Debate:
Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief, USA Today

Second Debate:
Steve Scully, Senior Executive Producer & Political Editor, C-SPAN Networks

Third Debate:
Kristen Welker, Co-Anchor Weekend TODAY, White House Correspondent, NBC News

Developments

First Presidential Debate

Online Reaction to First Debate

On September 29th, 2020, the first debate took place in Cleveland, OH.

Online the debate was the subject of much conversation. On Reddit, several threads, including those on /r/politics,[3][4][5] /r/insanepeoplefacebook[6] and /r/okbuddyretard[7] received more than 27,000 points.

Redditor[8] Quickflik posted the Moose Family in Kiddie Pool Watching Car Fire with the caption "Me, a Canadian, watching the presidential debate." The post received more than 142,000 points (88% upvoted) and 3,500 comments in less than 24 hours (shown below).



Many online criticized the participants and moderator, Chris Wallace, in the first debate, commenting on the interruptions by President Trump and the lack of substance during the debate. That day, ABC News published a video of an example of the interruptions. The post received more than 47,000 likes and 14,000 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below).

Trump's Statement to Proud Boys

During the debate, moderator Chris Wallace said to President Trump: "You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out Antifa and other left-wing extremist groups. But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia group and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland?"

After some back and forth, President Trump agreed to tell "white supremacist and right-wing militia" to "stand down." He said:

Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem this is a left-wing.



Many online were offended that the President did not denounce the group, which the FBI has identified as having ties to white nationalism. Reporter Brian Karen tweeted,[9] "That was unlike anything I've ever seen in 35 years covering politics. I respect whatever choice you make in voting – but I don't know how you can hold your head high and vote for @realDonaldTrump." The post received more than 31,000 likes and 8,000 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below, left).

PBS Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor tweeted,[10] "Moment to remember. Q to Trump: Would you condemn white supremacists? Trump doesn't answer the question & brings up ANTIFA. Wallace: Will you condemn white supremacists? Trump: 'Proud Boys, stand back & stand by.' That is not a condemnation by any stretch of the imagination." The tweet received more than 39,000 likes and 14,000 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below, center).

New York Times correspondent Mike Baker tweeted,[11] The Proud Boys are ecstatic tonight about getting mentioned in the debate tonight. 'Trump basically said to go fuck them up! this makes me so happy,' writes one prominent Proud Boy." The post includes screenshots from the website Parler of people celebrating his comments. The post received more than 22,000 likes and 18,000 (shown below, right).


Brian J. Karem @BrianKarem That was unlike anything l've ever seen in 35 years covering politics. I respect whatever choice you make in voting - but I don't know how you can hold your head high and vote for @realDonald Trump unless you're a member of the Proud Boys or the KKK at this point. 8:47 PM · Sep 29, 2020 · Twitter Web App Yamiche Alcindor @Yamiche Moment to remember. Q to Trump: Would you condemn white supremacists? Trump doesn't answer the question & brings up ANTIFA. Wallace: Will you condemn white supremacists? Trump: "Proud Boys, stand back & stand by." That is not a condemnation by any stretch of the imagination. 7:18 PM · Sep 29, 2020 · Twitter Web App Mike Baker @ByMikeBaker The Proud Boys are ecstatic tonight about getting mentioned in the debate tonight. "Trump basically said to go f--- them up! this makes me so happy," writes one prominent Proud Boy. Joe Biggs @JoeBiggs · 12 minutes ago O 3.5k Trump basically said to go f--- them up! this makes me so happy 28 36 181 Enrique Tarrio @NobleLead 12 minutes ago O 3.8k Standing by sir. 30 34 175 Joe Biggs @JoeBiggs 13 minutes ago 6.2k President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because someone needs to deal with ANTIFA.well sir! we're ready! 39 108 300 Joe Biggs @JoeBiggs · 15 minutes ago © 5.5k Proud Boys Shout at at the Presidential Debate! 58 63 256 7:28 PM · Sep 29, 2020 · Twitter Web App >

Baker continued to share a new logo that included the phrase (shown below). He wrote, "The Proud Boys are now sharing the group's logo with the president's words emblazoned like a slogan.


Mike Baker @ByMikeBaker Replying to @ByMikeBaker The Proud Boys are now sharing the group's logo with the president's words emblazoned like a slogan. STAND BACK PB STAND BY 8:20 PM · Sep 29, 2020 · Twitter Web App

Will You Shut Up, Man

Responding to his interruptions, Vice President Biden told President Trump, "Will you shut up, man?" The clip went viral online and inspired a campaign t-shit that featured the phrase (shown below, left and right).[12]


BIDEN VICTORY FUND "Will You Shut up, Man" Black T-shirt Edition $30.00 "WILL YOU SHUT up, MAN" — Limited

In memes, Will You Shut Up Man is used as an exploitable image macro series to express annoyance or irritation, especially as a reaction to someone who won’t stop speaking. In late September and early October 2020, following the debate, the quote and reaction image trended online across most social media platforms (seen below).


11alive.com righte, the ir whomwr ungim of Why they just didn't take the eagles to Mordor? ALIVE staivecom Uted amOng en, dorIVUig their THE erned, That ORDYERINGS SHIREPOSTING ever ends, it is the R TUment, layi the Pecple te alter on such prin ikely to o ice, ind Will you shut up man. cvern orm, as to t ALIVE

Vice Presidential Debate

On October 7th, 2020, the Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT. Roughly one week after the coronavirus infected President Trump and several members of the White House staff, plexiglass barriers were placed next to each podium.

Online Reaction

Mike Pence Fly

During the debate, a fly landed on Vice President Pence's head. The fly stayed there for about two minutes[13] (shown below).



During the fly incident, people joked about Pence's relationship with the fly. Instagram[14] user @tank.sinatra posted a Pointing Rick Dalton meme captioned, "Me watching the debates seeing a fly land on Mike Pence's hair." The post received more than 76,000 likes in less than 24 hours (shown below, left).

Twitter user @studentactivism tweeted,[15] that "There are already MORE THAN A HUNDRED 'Fly on Mike Pence's head' Twitter accounts" (shown below, center).

That night, Vice President Biden tweeted[16] a photograph of himself holding a fly swatter, with the caption, "Pitch in $5 to help this campaign fly." The tweet received more than 785,000 likes and 250,000 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below, right).


Me watching the debates seeing a fly land on Mike Pence's hair @tank.sinatra Angus Johnston @studentactivism There are already MORE THAN A HUNDRED "Fly on Mike Pence's head" Twitter accounts. LUny, ityyy, Justy, aliu mOULny. 1Ttau, WITLE, tuil aiIU LEIN STunES. Follow @PenceFly3 Mike Pence Follow @Mike_Pence PenceFly @fly_pence Follow Vice President of the United States Chillin on Mista Pence Pence's Hair Fly Follow @PENCESFLYTRAP Mike Pence's Fly @MikePencesFly22 Follow The fly on Mike Pence's head. Mike Pence's Fly @pence_fly Follow Fly Pence @FlyPence1 I've landed on lots of s---. But this is the smelliest. Follow The Pence Fly @debatefly_ Follow PenceFly @PenceFly5000 Follow The hero of the American people THE FLY @M_PenceFly Follow PenceHeadFly @PenceHeadFly11 Follow Just a little fly attracted to yung fly @FlyOnPence_ Follow Pence Fly on a noggin near you Follow @PenceF139343588 I am the Fly from the VP Debates Fly On Mike Pence @FlyOnMikePence2 Follow Pence Fly 2020 @fly2020_pence Follow Fly on Mike Pence @FlyonMikePence6 Follow BZZZZzzzzzzZzZzzzzz mike pence debate fly @mikepencedebate Buzz buzz it's the resistance I land on literal s--- Follow Fly on Pence's head @flyon_pence Follow 7:31 PM · Oct 7, 2020 · Twitter Web App Joe Biden @JoeBiden Pitch in $5 to help this campaign fly. joe.link/3nvsFwL 7:33 PM · Oct 7, 2020 · TweetDeck

Kamala Harris Reaction

That night, Senator Harris' reactions to Pence became a popular reaction image during the debate. For example, the Never Trump political action group, the Lincoln Project tweeted,[17] "All of us hearing Pence's lies." The tweet received more than 98,000 likes and 16,000 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below, left). Twitter[18] user @JamiraBurly tweeted a reaction with the caption, "Every woman I know has given this look when some man attempts to mansplain or present an idea that isn’t theirs. #VPDebate." The tweet received more than 85,000 likes and 17,000 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below, center). Throughout the night, others shared reactions (example below, right).


The Lincoln Project @ProjectLincoln All of us hearing Pence's lies. dictole that ses; 6:12 PM · Oct 7, 2020 · Twitter Web App > Jamira Burley @JamiraBurley Every woman I know has given this look when some man attempts to mansplain or present an idea that isn't theirs. #VPDebate Happy should fath sh right i long tr design threu 6:32 PM · Oct 7, 2020 · Twitter for iPhone Kay Taylor Rea but spooky @kaytaylorrea tonight's debate in four perfect Kamala Harris reaction shots HappSten should hath sh right ed leng t design nsie rans ses, Cse 1Wpos er, 7:26 PM · Oct 7, 2020 · Twitter for iPhone

Second Presidential Debate

Following President Trump's coronavirus diagnosis, Vice President Biden requested a virtual debate out of concern for spreading the President's illness. Trump refused, and the debate commission canceled the event.

In place of the debate, both President Trump and Vice President Biden participated in separate televised town halls, which took place on competing networks on October 15th, 2020 (shown below, left and right, respectively).



Third Presidential Debate

The third presidential debate took place on October 22nd, 2020, at the Curb Event Center in Nashville, Tennessee (shown below).



Online Reaction

Poor Boys

During the debate, former Vice President Biden accidentally referred to the far-right, neo-fascist organization the Proud Boys as the "poor boys." The mistake caught on social media, with members of the Proud Boys expressing disappointment at the name. Twitter[19] user @ZTPetrizzo tweeted screenshots of the Proud Boys Parler account complaining about the mistake. They wrote, "Far-right hate group, The Proud Boys, seem rather upset Joe Biden gave them the ”Poor Boys” nickname!" The tweet received more than 2,000 likes and 900 retweets (shown below).


Zachary Petrizzo @ZTPetrizzo Far-right hate group, The Proud Boys, seem rather upset Joe Biden gave them the "Poor Boys" nickname! PROUD BOYS PROU Proud Boys @TheProudBoys Proud Boys 9 mins ago • O4.4k THIS ME ALREADY HAS MEMES??? It's PROUD BOYS Joe!!!! 13 mins ago • It's PROUD BOYS Joe Don't act like you don't P 114 125 Shov DOOD D OVE 7:37 PM · Oct 22, 2020 · Twitter for iPhone

Joe Biden Blinking

At one point during the event, former Vice President Joe Biden reacted to one of Trump's comments with a rapid blink doubletake, similar to Blinking White Guy. That night, Redditor ReveillerRD posted a GIF of the moment in the /r/MemeEconomy.[19] The post received more than 51,000 points (82% upvoted) in less than 24 hours (shown below, left). Throughout the night, people posted variations of the meme (shown below, right).


Adam: wow this apple tastes great where'd you get it from Eve: the forbidden tree Adam:


Donald Trump's Lean

That night, people remarked on President Trump's poster. Trump appeared to lean forward into the podium during the debate. Online people made jokes about the angle of Trump's stance (examples below).


dead morganism @ok_girlfriend VE oents in ck f e ndill lind laing ELECTION 2020 PRESID 7:24 PM · Oct 22, 2020 · Twitter Web App > Garbage Ape W A @GarbageApe SHVILLE endew Life L Grover 3 2 1 0 7 5 Mostruct consent tute 60 80 100 dB 40 20 HORNY 6:33 AM · Oct 23, 2020 · Twitter for iPhone


I'm The Least Racist Person In This Room

During the debate, Trump was asked about the protests throughout 2020 for racial equality.[19] Moderator Kristen Welker asked, "Mr. President, you've described the Black Lives Matter movement as a symbol of hate. You shared a video of a man chanting 'white power' to millions of your supporters. You've said that Black professional athletes exercising their First Amendment rights should be fired. What do you say to Americans who say that that kind of language, from a president, is contributing to a climate of hate, and racial strife?"

Trump responded, "You have to understand, the first time I ever heard of Black Lives Matter, they were chanting, 'Pigs in a blanket,' talking about police. That was my first glimpse of Black Lives Matter. I thought it was a terrible thing. As far as my relationships with all people, I think I have great relationships with all people. I am the least racist person in this room."

He continued:

I have criminal justice reform done, and prison reform, and opportunities, I took care of Black colleges and universities. I don't know what to say. They could say anything. I mean, they could say anything. It makes me sad. I am the least racist person. I can't even see the audience, because it is so dark, but I don't care who's in the audience, I'm the least race in person in this room.

Many online joked about the comment. For example, that night, Redditor ATJWen posted in the /r/dankmemes[20] subreddit. The post received more than 16,000 points (99% upvoted0 and 100 comments in less than 24 hours (shown below).


When I eat M&Ms without looking at the colours y Form of Gev nds, it is the Right eple te alter er to uch principh Kely te offecet rned That whe 01 ment, layir OPHI, as to t overnments Global dforl am the least racist person alivews nce, indeed


Mute Button

To avoid the interruptions of the first debate, moderators were given a "mute button" to keep the debate on track. The button became the subject of numerous memes, particularly in regards to the button not being used (example below).

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