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  • Autumn Brewster, Ian Cook & Henry Stone

Nevadan: “The Debate was a Food Fight… At a Kindergarten”


Autumn Brewster, Ian Cook and Henry Stone report on some of the reactions from Nevada following the first debate between President Donald Trump and his challenger Joe Biden.


A family watches the debate meltdown from a cozy living room in Reno. Photo by Henry Stone.


From Living Rooms to Twitter Disbelief


“The debate was like a cafeteria food fight, [where] two kindergarteners were brawling it out,” said Bill Reyes, a moderate Republican who watched the debate pitting President Donald Trump against Democratic Party challenger Joe Biden, from his home in South Reno.


“It was incredibly exhausting to watch,” Karen Stephens said from her home in north Reno. Stephens who describes herself as a left-wing Democrat streamed the debate on YouTube on C-SPAN’s channel.


Nevadans were among the millions watching the first Presidential debate for the 2020 U.S. Election last night, even as media reports indicated it registered a smaller view count than the record-breaking first debate in 2016.


That debate opposing Republican Donald Trump and Democratic Party opponent Hillary Clinton set the record as the most-watched debate in American history, with 84 million viewers. More than 73 million viewers watched Thursday night’s chaos.


Local Nevadans also opened Twitter to react:


Reno-based journalist Bree Zender simply wrote: “Wow.” UNR student Stefan Harpster partly tweeted: “No one won this debate, both sides only taunted each other. I can’t vote for either one!”


#Vote2020, #debate, #debate2020, #TrumpMeltdown, and #VoteHimOut were some of the hashtags trending on Twitter last night and this morning.

Instant public Facebook commentary got heated as well. Screen grab by Autumn Brewster.


A Moderator Gets Ignored


The clown and laughter emojis were used quite frequently throughout social media.


The 90-minute debate at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University was hosted by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace, who notably pushed against Trump in an interview in July, with pointed questions about the ongoing pandemic and protest unrest. Masks were required for entry, and each of the nearly 100 people in attendance received a COVID-19 test to attend.


A full week before Trump and Biden took the stage, Wallace prepared debate questions for six primary topics: “the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in our cities, and the integrity of the election.”


As the debate got underway, Trump interrupted both Biden and Wallace in almost every sentence. Biden directly told Trump to “shut up” and said he is “the worst president America has ever had.”


Even for Trump, who notoriously interrupted 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton on the debate stage by repeating the word “wrong,” the first debate of the 2020 presidential election was unprecedented in its chaos. On multiple occasions, Wallace was audibly annoyed at the president for disregarding the rules he [Trump] and Biden agreed to at the start of the debate.


“Mr. President, let him answer,” Wallace asserted among the cacophony of voices. “Mr. President, please stop,” he asserted again a mere 20 seconds later.


“It’s hard to get any word in with this clown,” Biden said, before walking back his jab at the president. “Excuse me, this person.”


In an increasingly polarized political culture, conversations about presidential debates are now predominantly centered around moments rather than specific policies proposed by either candidate.


Trump’s call to the Proud Boys, a far-right, neo-fascist organization based in the United States, to “stand back and stand by” reached the top five trending topics on Twitter. Among the topics following shortly after was “White Supremacy,” a term which Trump refused to repeat or condemn per Wallace’s query.


The next debate, this time between vice presidential Democratic challenger Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence, will take place on Oct. 7. After that, Trump and Biden will meet again on two other televised debate stages Oct. 15 and Oct. 22.


Reporting by Autumn Brewster, Ian Cook and Henry Stone for the Reynolds Sandbox

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A pop up newsroom reporting on the 2020 elections.

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