With just two weeks until elections, United States President Donald Trump and his Democrat contender Joe Biden on Friday met on the stage once more for the last presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee. Trump opened the debate with a claim that his government will release a vaccine against the coronavirus “within weeks”.

“We have a vaccine that’s coming, it’s ready, it’s going to be announced within weeks,” Trump said at the debate, which was moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker. “It will be distributed very quickly.”

But his claim lacks evidence. Top health officials in the United States have repeatedly said that a vaccine may not be widely available until next summer.

In response to the first question of the night on coronavirus, Trump claimed 2.2 million people were “expected to die”, and the pandemic was “rounding the turn”, although he did not provide any studies or figures to back his claim.

More than 2,22,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US and has affected more than 84 lakh people since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Trump also did not take responsibility for the deaths of thousands of Americans due to the virus. “I take full responsibility,” he said, and continued: “It’s not my fault it came here. It’s China’s fault.”


Trump also claimed that he was “immune” because he had recovered from Covid-19. “They say I’m immune, whether it’s four months or a lifetime, nobody’s been able to say that,” the president said. “But I’m immune.” Studies have yet to establish whether being infected with Covid-19 leads to future immunity.

Trump added that the antibody cocktail administered to him, which is still in clinical trials, had cured him of the virus. “I had something that they gave me, a therapeutic I guess they would call it – some people would say it is a cure – I was in for a short period of time and I got better very fast, or I would not be here tonight.”

The second debate, scheduled for last week, was cancelled after the president tested positive for the coronavirus and subsequently refused to take part in a virtual meeting.

Biden opened on Friday by saying the president’s handling of the coronavirus disqualified him from serving a second term, according to CNN. “Anyone who’s responsible for not taking control, anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said, referring to Trump telling reporters he takes no responsibility for the virus.

Biden contrasted Trump’s handling of the virus to what he says his own would be: A focus on pushing people to wear masks and more rapid testing for the virus. “I would make sure that we set up national standards as to how to open up schools and open up businesses so they can be safe and give them the wherewithal, the financial resources to be able to do that,” he said.

Biden then slammed Trump’s response to the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. “[Trump] says, we’re learning to live with it,” Biden said. “People are learning to die with it.”

This came after Trump claimed he does not say the pandemic will be over soon but that Americans “are learning to live with it as they “have no choice”. During the debate, Trump kept referring to the pandemic as “the plague from China”.

Also see: ‘I am the least racist person in this room’: Trump. Watch highlights of US presidential debate

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shows US President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. [Credit: Jim Watson/AFP]

‘I’m the least racist person in this room’: Trump

“The fact of the matter is, there is institutional racism in America,” Joe Biden said when asked about racism.

Trump has consistently avoided using the phrase institutional racism. He also claimed he has done more for Blacks than any other president, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.

“I am the least racist person in this room... I don’t care who’s in the audience,” he said.

Biden shot back, “This guy is a dog whistle about as big as a foghorn... He pours fuel on every single racist fire.” He added that Trump started his 2016 campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists.”

Biden said he understood why people of colour feared for their children’s lives and added that he has never had to explain to his children how to behave or conduct themselves in order to keep safe from the police.

“But a Black parent, no matter how wealthy or poor they are, has to teach their child when you’re walking down the street don’t have a hoodie on when you go across the street, making sure you in fact if you get pulled over, yes, sir, no, sir, hands on top of the wheel, because you are in fact the victim whether you’re a … person making $300,000 a year person or someone who’s on food stamps.”

— Joe Biden

Tax evasion and China

The former vice president referred to a New York Times report that revealed previously unknown financial holdings in China, at a time when the president is criticising Biden for ties to Beijing.

“I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life. We learned that this President paid 50 times the tax in China [that he has in the US], has a secret bank account with China, does business in China, and, in fact is talking about me taking money? I have not taken a single penny from any country whatsoever, ever.”  

— Joe Biden

Biden then turned to Trump’s taxes. A report in The New York Times last month had revealed that Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, the year he won the presidential election. In his first year of presidency, he again paid only $750 as tax.

“You have not released a single solitary year of your tax returns,” Biden said. “What are you hiding? Why are you unwilling?”

Climate change

“Look at China, it’s filthy… Look at Russia, look at India… filthy! The air is filthy!” Trump said. During his reply to the moderator, Trump did not use the term “climate change” even once. He has often denied it is real. Trump also called the Paris accord unfair towards America. “It was so unfair,” he said, pointing at different expectations from the US and China.

“We have done an incredible job environmentally, and we haven’t destroyed our industries,” he claimed.

Trump had earlier said that wind energy causes cancer, Biden pointed out. “I know more about wind than you do,” Trump retorted. “It’s very expensive. It kills the birds.”

Biden said they had a “moral obligation” to tackle climate chance.

“The future lies in us being able to breathe,” Biden said. “The fastest-growing industry in America are the electric, excuse me, solar energy and wind... We can grow and we can be cleaner if we go the route I’m proposing.”

“I’m gonna rejoin the Paris accord and make China abide by it,” Biden finished.

Immigration and children detained by ICE

When asked about over 500 children whose parents cannot be traced after children and parents were separated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, this was Trump’s response: “Children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, and people use them to get into the country... A lot of these kids come without their parents.”

Trump blamed the “cages” the children are put in on the Obama-Biden administration.

“They are so well taken care of. But who built the cages?” 

— Donald Trump

Trump also claimed the only undocumented immigrants who appear for their court dates are those with the “lowest IQ.”

Closing comments

When both candidates were asked what they would tell people who did not vote for them, if they won, at their inaugural speech, Trump focused on rebuilding the economy after the pandemic. “We have to make our country totally successfully as it was prior to the plague coming in from China,” Trump said. “Success is going to bring us together. We are on the road to success. I’m cutting taxes but he wants to raise everyone’s taxes,”

Biden said, “I’m an American president, I represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me. I’m gonna make sure you’re represented.... We can grow this economy, we can deal with systemic racism.”

“We’re gonna use science over fiction, hope over fear.” 

— Joe Biden