What parents need to know about the final presidential debate

These are the topics President Trump and Joe Biden tackled on Thursday night.

What parents need to know about the final presidential debate
White House/Biden campaign

President Donald Trump and Joe Biden faced each other tonight in the final presidential debate. The Commander-in-Chief and the former Vice President were reunited after spending their previous debate time slot in different studios, in different cities, on different networks.

That night the President took a lot of tough questions from NBC's Savannah Guthrie, and tonight her colleague Kristen Welker, a White House correspondent for NBC News and Weekend Today co-anchor, questioned both the president and Joe Biden.

Welker chose the topics for tonight's debate: COVD-19, national security, race in America, leadership and American families. And here's what was said.


On the COVID-19 pandemic 

President Trump took the first question, explaining how he would lead the nation through the next phase of the pandemic. He spoke about his own treatment for COVID-19, suggested he is now immune to the virus and stated that it's going away. Fact checkers were quick to challenge Trump's claims, as well as his claim that a vaccine will be approved and in use soon. His opponent Joe Biden also challenged Trump's claim that the pandemic is over soon, noting that scientists don't agree.

The World Health Organization's Chief Scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, recently predicted the vaccine will be available to the most vulnerable near the middle of 2021, but stated "an average person, a healthy, young person, might have to wait until 2022 to get a vaccine."

Welker asked Biden why he hasn't ruled out more shutdowns in the United States as the pandemic progresses. Biden explained that he is not for shutting down the country, but supports closing gyms, bars and other businesses to encourage social distancing when necessary. Biden called for more funding for schools to maintain social distancing while staying open, and President Trump stated that he's in favor or keeping schools open, pointing out that his young son Baron, age 14, recovered from COVID-19 without incident.

(As NPR and the New York Times recently reported, a growing body of evidence suggests in-person K-12 schooling is not increasing transmission of the coronavirus.)

On national security 

Welker transitioned to national security, and concerns that Russia and Iran are attempting to interfere with this election.

Joe Biden vowed to protect the sanctity of elections and stated: "Any country, no matter who it is, who interferes with our elections will pay a price."

President Trump stated that he is tough on Russia and shifted the narrative in his response, suggesting that Biden has taken money from foreign countries (something Biden denied in his rebuttal). There is no credible proof that Joe Biden has ever received money from a foreign actor. His son, Hunter Biden, was accused of involvement in a business deal in Russia for which a senate report says he was paid $3.5 million. Hunter Biden's lawyer denies he received this payment.

The men also sparred over taxes, with Biden calling for Trump to release his tax returns and Trump again repeating that the $750 the New York Times reported he paid as federal income taxes in 2017 was some sort of filing fee.

In this segment President Trump claimed China is paying billions in tariffs to the United States, something Biden immediately challenged him on, stating that those billions are not coming from China, but from the American people.

On American families + the economy 

Welker opened this section by asking about healthcare and the affordable care act, which is vulnerable to being overturned by the Supreme Court soon. President Trump stated that he will "always protect people with the pre-existing conditions" and is focused on coming up with something better than Obamacare. He suggested that Joe Biden's plan to build on Obamacare is basically "socialized medicine" (fact-check: It isn't).

Trump brought Bernie Sanders into the conversation multiple times, but as Biden pointed out, his plan for healthcare is not the same as Sanders' vision. Biden stated that he's actually trying to see Obamacare evolve into Bidencare, a plan that would include a public option but would not eliminate private insurance. "I support private insurance," he stated. He challenged Trump's claim that his administration can protect people with pre-existing conditions.

It's gonna cost some over $750 million dollars over 10 years, Biden stated of his plan for affordable healthcare for Americans.

Next, Welker asked about the economic uncertainty women and people of color are facing during the pandemic and why the American people have not received adequate support from the federal government. President Trump blamed Nancy Pelosi, suggesting she doesn't want to approve a stimulus bill and Joe Biden stated that the Republican-led Senate isn't passing legislation meant to support American families, schools, businesses and communities.

President Trump pivoted to discussing minimum wage, suggesting that $7 or $8 an hour is a decent wage in parts of the country. Joe Biden stated his support for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

Next Welker asked about the 545 immigrant children separated from their parents who were deported under the Trump administration. The president suggested that coyotes or human traffickers brought some of these children to the United States, a claim Joe Biden disputed, calling the practice of separating children from their parents "criminal."

When President Trump blamed immigration problems on the Obama administration (including detention centers, "he did nothing but build cages to keep children in," Trump said of Biden), the former Vice President said it took his former boss too long to get immigration right, and that he's not going to be Vice President anymore, but hopes to be President.

"We made a mistake. I was Vice President of the United States, not the President of the United States," he said, pledging to create a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants within his first 100 days as president and vowed to protect young people who were brought to the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

On race in America

When Welker turned the conversation to race in America, Biden stated that it's a fact that there is institutionalized racism in our country and agreed that white parents don't have to have "the talk" with their children the way Black parents do, that white parents don't have to warn their children about interactions with police the way Black parents do.

President Trump then suggested that Joe Biden once called Black people "super-predators" (a claim that is mostly false, according to NBC News. The term was actually coined by Hilary Clinton in reference to a crime bill Biden worked on in the 1990s).

When President Trump got off-topic, referring again to unproven claims linking Biden to foreign actors, Welker brought the conversation back to race, asking President Trump about statements he's made about the Black Lives Matter movement. He stated: "I am the least racist person in the world," and compared himself (favorably) to Abraham Lincoln, stating that no president since Lincoln has done as much as he has for Black people.

Joe Biden challenged him, referring to things Trump has said in the past, including calling Mexican people racists and his ban on Muslim travelers and his comments to the Proud Boys in a previous debate.

Welker asked Biden about crime bills he supported in previous decades that resulted in the incarceration of many young Black men. Biden acknowledged the problem and the mistakes that were made and stated he doesn't want to see people going to jail for pure drug offenses, suggesting people with drug problems should receive treatment instead of going to prison.

On climate change

When asked about the climate crisis, President Trump referred to an executive order he signed earlier this month to move forward with the One Trillion Trees project, an initiative that aims to protect and restore one trillion trees by 2030.

On fracking, Joe Biden stated his position has not been that he's against fracking (a statement fact-checkers debated, and Biden walked back by stating that he'd been referencing fracking on federal land). He stated that the oil industry needs to be replaced by renewable energy over time and that he would stop giving subsidies to oil companies.

President Trump urged Texas, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma to remember that and suggested that wind energy is expensive and kills birds (fact-check: wind energy does not kill birds.)

Biden talked about the people who live close to industrial pollutants "the fact is those front-line communities, it doesn't matter what you pay them, what matters is you keep them safe."

Bottom line 

The mute feature seemed to work, as this final debate was much more orderly than the first presidential debate, which was heavy on insults and saw the candidates talking over each other so much some found the first debate unwatchable.

Tonight, parents were able to watch and hear what the candidates were saying. The president said he's worried the stock market will crash under Biden and spoke about how citizens' "401(k)s will go to hell" under Biden.

Biden's anecdotes were related to people more than economics. This was not lost on some viewers who are more worried about their kids and their families than their bank accounts and retirement funds.

The election is November 3rd. If you haven't already voted, mama, don't forget that you have power. Use it.


[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]