Thursday night was a tale of two town halls but while President Trump and Joe Biden both had a lot to say, in their own ways, some commentators say the winner was Savannah Guthrie, who moderated the NBC Trump town hall. The Today co-host is being praised—and criticized—for her tough questioning of Trump in the 20 minutes before questions from the audience began. She repeatedly challenged the clearly irritated president multiple times when he gave evasive answers. "You're the president," she told Trump when he defended retweeting a conspiracy theory about Joe Biden having Navy SEALs killed to cover up a failure to kill Osama bin Laden. "You're not someone's crazy uncle who can retweet whatever." More:
- One of Trump's toughest grillings. The Today co-host gave Trump "one of the toughest grillings he has faced as president, with questions about white supremacy, COVID-19 deaths, and his taxes," Aaron Blake and Eugene Scott write at the Washington Post. They note that Guthrie is a lawyer—she scored first place on the Arizona Bar Exam in 2002—and her "almost literal cross-examination" of the president should "allay any fears that this would amount to a free platform for the president."
- Trump says he'll honor election results. During the NBC event, Trump said for the first time that he would honor the results of a fair election, though he cast an "extraordinary amount of doubt on the likeliness of fairness," the AP reports. "And then they talk, ’Will you accept a peaceful transfer?'" Trump said. “And the answer is, 'Yes, I will.' But I want it to be an honest election, and so does everybody else."
- Guthrie tried to pin down infection date. The moderator tried to pin down the date of Trump's last negative coronavirus test. Asked repeatedly whether he had been tested the day of the debate with Joe Biden, Trump said he didn't know and didn't remember, Slate reports. "I probably did," he eventually said. "I took a test before, the day before. I was in great shape for the debate."
- Clash over QAnon. In what Politico calls the "biggest blunder" from either town hall, Trump declined to denounce the QAnon conspiracy theory, claiming he knew nothing about it. After Guthrie told him Q adherents believe top Democrats are part of a ring of Satanic pedophiles, he said: "I do know that they are very much against pedophilia. I agree with that." "So cute," he said as Guthrie pressed him to denounce QAnon instead of switching focus to left-wing groups.
- Bad reviews from Fox. Fox hosts including Sean Hannity accused Guthrie of "ambushing" the president and called her performance "reeking of pure political bias," the Daily Beast reports. "Joe’s stand-in: As expected, Savannah Guthrie is debating, not interviewing, Donald Trump," tweeted Laura Ingraham.
- A "staid" night in Philadelphia. The Biden event, by contrast, was largely uneventful, although after pressing from ABC moderator George Stephanopoulos, Biden did promise to give a clear answer before Election Day on where he stands on court packing. It was "a relatively staid and traditional 90-minute affair that is likely to be overshadowed by the president’s new controversies," and Biden "coasted through without any memorable missteps," write Niall Stanage and Jonathan Easley at the Hill.
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