Election 2024

Here are 5 takeaways from the first Trump-Biden debate

Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate of 2024
Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate of 2024 Photo: CNN screenshot composite

A subdued and scratchy-voiced President Joe Biden debated a more upbeat yet consistently dishonest former President Donald Trump on Thursday night at CNN’s studios in Atlanta, Georgia. LGBTQ+ issues didn’t come up during the nearly two-hour event.

Nonetheless, here are five standout moments from the event. The next debate will occur on September 10.

Biden’s performance was hampered by a cold

At the beginning of the debate, Biden looked pale, sounded raspy, and gave occasionally jumbled answers, even losing track at one point early into the event. While he improved somewhat as the debate went on, his campaign later said he had a cold, but his performance concerned some Democratic spectators.

In one moment of illustrative incoherence, Biden said, “Making sure that we are able to make every single solitary person eligible for what I’ve been able to do with the…with the COVID. Or excuse me, with dealing with everything we have to do with. Look, if. We finally beat Medicare.”

Before the debate, Trump’s surrogates said Biden would be taking performance-enhancing drugs and that the debate’s moderators would act in a biased way against Trump. Biden’s performance disproved these conspiracies. By the end, CNN only seemed to cut the mic several times on Biden when his responses went over the pre-agreed upon time limit.

The overall lackluster performer seemed to substantiate right-wing concern trolling about Biden being too old to serve a second term even though he is only three years older than Trump. On social media, Democrats have asked whether there’s time to replace Biden as the party’s presume nominee.

Trump lied repeatedly

Trump claimed that Biden created the COVID-era lockdown policies that actually began under Trump, blamed former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for causing the January 6, 2021 Capitol riots, repeated old conspiracy theories about Biden’s son’s dealings with Ukraine, claimed that Biden referred to Black Americans as “super predators,” claimed that Biden allowed Russia to invade Ukraine, said that he himself lowered the cost of insulin and that he fought to protect the environment during his presidency — all of these claims are untrue.

Trump repeatedly said that immigrants from prisons and mental asylums are crossing the border to rape and kill Americans, that “every” legal scholar wanted to get rid of a federal right to an abortion, and also claimed that he would accept the results of the upcoming election as long as it is “fair” — a promise he won’t likely keep.

Despite this, during the debate, Trump referred to Biden as a liar, though Biden repeatedly tried to point out Trump’s falsehoods.

Biden mentioned Trump’s recent convictions

During the debate, Trump referred to Biden’s recent court losses, including his sexual assault of E. Jean Carroll and his hush money payments to hide his extra-marital affair with adult video performer Stormy Daniels.

“The only person on this stage who is a convicted felon is this man I’m looking at right now…. The crimes that you are still charged with – and think of all the civil penalties you have,” Biden told Trump. “How many billions of dollars do you owe in civil penalties for molesting a woman in public? For doing a whole range of things? Of having sex with a porn star on the night – while your wife was pregnant?”

Biden asked, turning to Trump and asking, “You have the morals of an alley cat.” 

Trump denied having sex with Daniels.

Biden mentioned Trump’s love letters to anti-LGBTQ+ dictators

Biden mentioned Trump’s “love letters” to North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, a reference to Trump’s comment from September 2018, saying, “Kim wrote me beautiful letters and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”

Last February, Trump’s former primary opponent, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, mocked this comment by making homoerotic Valentine’s Say cards quoting his flattering comments to some of the most notorious anti-LGBTQ+ world leaders.

The two argued about physical health and golf

Late into the debate, one CNN moderator asked both men about public concerns over their old age.

“I just won two club championships, not even senior. Two regular club championships,” the former president said, failing to mention that he won the championships at his own club. “To do that, you have to be quite smart, and you have to be able to hit the ball a long way. [Biden] can’t hit a ball 50 yards.”

Biden said that he’d be happy to “have a driving contest with him,” adding, “I told you before I’m happy to play golf. If you carry your own bag. Do you think you could do it?”

As the two began quibbling, Trump eventually said, “Let’s not act like children.”

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