AP News described the first presidential debate between candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump as an event filled with “bitter taunts and near chaos.” BYU–Hawaii students said it was more contentious than they expected but humorous.
“I did not expect the debate to be formal compared to debates in the past. I mostly expected bickering and name-calling,” said Carter Hunsaker, a freshman from California studying political science.
Hazel Johnston, a sophomore from California studying political science, said she did not expect the debate to be as chaotic as it was. “I expected the debate to not be necessarily professional, but at least respectful.”
Chris Wallace of Fox News moderated the debate held on Sept. 29th. He asked questions concerning nominating a new justice, healthcare, packing the court, COVID-19, climate change, voting by mail, employment and racial issues.
The debate almost immediately turned into a series of interruptions from both sides, but according to Wallace, Trump was interrupting the most within the debate.
On Twitter, a notable event was when Trump’s interruptions prompted an outburst by Joe Biden, exclaiming, “Will you just shut up, man?” This phrase has since become a popular internet meme and GIF, according to Newsweek.
Hunsaker recalled, “The most memorable part of the debate was when Trump was speaking, and Biden kept interrupting, and Trump stopped and went, ‘Joe,’ and continued talking. That is memorable because of the humor aspect.”
News of the chaos and interruptions were not limited to those who watched the debate live but were also present on social media. Amy Costello, a sophomore from Utah undecided in her major, said she collected the most memorable moments from social media. She said that she had seen many clips circulating of the bickering when logging on to apps and not even searching for political content.
Johnston said she found humor in the debate and found the moderator to be a source and mirror of how the American people felt when watching the altercation. “Any moment the moderator would laugh, I found so funny.”
Debates serve to inform the public of the principles and views of the political candidates they will be voting for. When students were asked if the debate changed their opinions on who they will vote for, they explained how their minds were made up prior to the debate.
“The debate did not change my opinions on who I will be voting for in this election, mostly because I’m firm in my beliefs. Also, the opposing side, in my opinion, did not present any convincing arguments, nor did they present any authority or resources,” Hunsaker said.
When asked if her mind was changed, Johnston replied, “Sadly, no.”
On Oct. 9th, AP News reported the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates canceled the second debate scheduled for Oct. 15th. The article explains Trump pulled out due to the virtual format in place after he contracted the coronavirus. Biden pulled out and scheduled a town hall on ABC News for the same night once Trump announced he would not participate.