The first presidential debate was, in a word, chaotic.
Tuesday’s head-to-head matchup between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was filled with attacks and interruptions. Both candidates talked over one another when answering questions about everything from the coronavirus pandemic to the Supreme Court.
At one point, the former vice president was apparently so fed up with interruptions from the president, Biden snapped at Trump, “Will you shut up, man?”
Repeatedly, Trump tried to take over the conversation, interrupting Biden and repeatedly talking over the moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace. The president tried to deflect tough lines of questioning – whether on his taxes or the pandemic – to deliver jabs against Biden.
Despite pleas from Wallace to get both candidates to stop interrupting, the vitriolic back-and-forth continued.
Biden told Trump to “get out of your bunker and get out of the sand trap,” referring to the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump’s response: “You could never have done the job that we did. You don’t have it in your blood.”
With just 35 days until the election and early voting underway – voters have cast over 1.3 million ballots already, according to a tally from the U.S. Elections Project – both candidates attempted to make their plea to the American people.
Here are five takeaways from the first presidential debate:
The first topic of the night was the Supreme Court and the president’s pick of Amy Coney Barrett to replace former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The president had previously demanded that Coney Barrett be confirmed by the Senate during his tenure, while Biden maintains that the American people deserve to vote on the president in order to have a say in the nation’s highest court.
Wallace asked both of the candidates why they thought their position was the correct one and address their opponent’s views on the topic.
Both Trump and Biden stood firm on their previous positions – or at least, it seemed they did, as the first fifteen minutes of the debate was filled with crosstalk between both the candidates and Wallace.
“We won the election, and therefore we have the right to choose her,” Donald Trump said of why his nomination should be confirmed, adding: “Elections have consequences.”
“The American people have a right to have a say in who the Supreme Court nominee is,” Biden said in response. “They’re not going to get that chance because we're in the middle of the election. Tens of thousands have already voted … We should wait and see what the outcome of the election is.”
But President Trump continuously interrupted during Biden’s answers, prompting the former vice president to repeatedly ask the president to, “Just be quiet for a moment?”
The president did not comply with Biden’s request.
Trump repeatedly attacked Biden for not releasing a list of Supreme Court nominees, interrupting his answer about potentially ending the filibuster and packing the court to press his opponent to answer the question.
“Will you shut up, man?” Biden eventually shot back.
Wallace and the president also had a tense exchange when Wallace asked Trump why he has not yet created a comprehensive health plan, to which Trump responded that he “absolutely had,” pointing to his elimination of the individual mandate under Obamacare.
Wallace responded that eliminating one aspect of health insurance did not amount to a comprehensive plan.
“I guess I'm debating you, not him,” Trump quipped to Wallace.
As the first segment continued, Biden amped up his verbal attacks against the president.
“I'm not here to call out his lies – everybody knows he’s a liar,” Biden said of Trump.
Trump also reiterated his frequent talking point that mail-in ballots will affect the result of the election. When asked by Wallace if he’s counting on the Supreme Court to determine the outcome of the election, Trump responded: "I'm counting on them to look at the ballots, definitely."
“This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen," Trump added.
Wallace pushed back at the president’s claims, pointing out that there is little evidence of voter fraud from mail-in ballots.
Trump said we might not know the outcome of the election “for months,” fueling speculation that he would not accept the results of the election should he lose in November.
In one of the more stunning moments of the night, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacists and militia groups. The president said he was willing to do it, but stopped short of offering any full-throated condemnation, deflecting by attacking left-wing groups and the Antifa movement.
At one point, Trump said: "Give me a name. Who would you like me to condemn? Proud Boys, stand back and stand by."
It's not clear what the president meant by that – he might have intended to say "stand down," a phrase Wallace used in his question – but members of the right-wing group certainly did not take it as a condemnation.
"President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because somebody needs to deal with ANTIFA....well sir! we're ready!!" a man who claimed to be with the Proud Boys said on the social media site Parler.
Biden accused Trump of using racist dog whistles to generate hatred and division. He also said the president has walked away from trying to meet the country's goal of achieving equality.
Trump, meanwhile, tried to paint Biden as someone who is unwilling to make the tough decisions to bring an end to violent protests.
"You can't even say the word 'law enforcement' because if you say those words you're going to lose all your radical left supporters," the president said.
As expected, Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic was a major point of discussion.
Biden attacked the president for not having a plan and playing down the dangers of the virus despite knowing about them in February.
The Democratic nominee noted that the United States, which has about 4% of the world's population, has accounted for one-fifth of coronavirus deaths. The U.S. has had nearly 206,000 deaths and, on many days, reports 750 to 1,000 deaths.
"When he was presented with that number, he said, 'It is what it is,'" Biden said, referring to an interview the president did with Axios in August. "Well, is what it is because you are who you are... The president has no plan. He hasn't laid out anything."
Trump repeated some of his favorite talking points about his actions, including the travel restrictions he placed on China.
"If we would've listened to you, the country would've been left wide open," Trump said to Biden. "Millions of people would've died."
The candidates also went back and forth over a vaccine. Trump said one could be ready before Election Day, a deadline that CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield and Operation Warp Speed Scientific Director Dr. Moncef Slaoui have expressed doubts can be met.
Trump said he doesn't agree with them and added that he's spoken to the drug companies. "They can go faster than that by a lot," he said.
"We're for a vaccine, but I don't trust him at all," Biden said. "Nor do you. I know you don't.
"Do you believe for a moment what he's telling you in light of all the lies he's told you about the whole issue relating to Covid?" the former vice president added.
Trump also again sent mixed messages about the importance of wearing masks. He said he thinks masks are "OK," but then mocked Biden for wearing them.
"He could be speaking 200 feet away from them and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen," the president said.
And when Biden noted that Redfield testified to Congress that 100,000 American lives could be saved before the end of the year if everyone wears masks, Trump said, "And they've also said the opposite."
During the economy portion of the debate, Wallace asked the president point-blank how much income taxes he paid during the first year of his presidency.
The question came on the heels of a report from the New York Times claiming that President Trump paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years. Trump also paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for president and in his first year in the White House, according to the report.
“Millions of dollars,” Trump answered when Wallace asked how much money Trump had paid in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017. “And you'll get to see it,” he added.
Trump did not clarify when exactly they would be released.
“Show us your tax returns! Show us your tax returns!” Biden chanted while Trump spoke.
Trump also claimed that tax laws created by the Obama Administration were what allowed him to avoid paying higher taxes.
“It was the tax laws. I don’t want to pay tax. Before I came here, I was a private developer. I was a private business person. Like every other private person, unless they’re stupid, they go through the laws,” Trump said.
The answer seemingly enraged Biden, who slammed the president for taking advantage of the tax code.
“You’re the worst president America has ever had,” Biden quipped.
Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris released copies of their 2019 tax returns hours before the presidential debate kicked off. The documents show that he and his wife, Jill, reported $944,737 in taxable income last year and paid a 31% tax rate for a total of $299,346 in federal income taxes.
The former vice president also released his tax returns for 22 previous years, showing that he and his wife paid $1.5 million in federal income taxes in 2016 and nearly $3.7 million in 2017. This means that the Bidens spent 2,000 times more in federal income taxes in 2016 and over 4,900 times as much in 2017 than the president.
Biden distanced himself from some of his more liberal colleagues when he stated that he does not support the Green New Deal, a proposed legislation that would employ renewable energy and resource efficiency to address climate change and economic inequality.
“I don't support the Green New Deal,” Biden said. “I support the Biden Plan.”
While Trump said this was a “big deal,” Biden was not an original supporter of the Green New Deal. He did, however, release a comprehensive climate change plan in July that acknowledged the Green New Deal is a “crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”
Trump reiterated his belief that the forest fires sweeping through California could be attributed to poor forest management. It’s a message that the president has leaned on during both previous and present massive fire seasons. He did, however, admit that “to an extent, yes, people contribute” to climate change.
The president also claimed that Biden’s climate plan would push companies and jobs out of the United States, adding that his opponent’s call to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord would do the same.
“If you look at the Paris Accord, it was a disaster from our standpoint, our businesses are doing well,” Trump said.
But Biden stood his ground, saying: "I will rejoin the Paris Accord. I'll rejoin the Paris Accord because with us out of it, look what's happening. It's all falling apart."
“Talk about someone who has no relationship with foreign policy,” Biden added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.