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A Sharply Split Screen – The New York Times

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It was a metaphor for a divided country.

Rather than debating each other last night — before a giant television audience spanning the political spectrum — President Trump and Joe Biden held dueling events, each on a separate network. It happened because Trump, who rejects so many of the traditions of American politics, had pulled out of a scheduled debate. Each candidate instead spoke to an audience that was probably dominated by his own supporters.

Biden’s event was fairly low-key, with him speaking in detail about his policy ideas, under questioning from ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and Pennsylvania voters. Trump’s was more combative, as he made several misleading statements and NBC’s Savannah Guthrie pressed him on them.

The key moments:

  • Trump said he would accept a peaceful transfer of power if he lost, but followed with false claims about voter fraud, including that “thousands of ballots” cast for him had been “dumped in a garbage can.”

  • Biden said elements of a decades-old crime bill he helped pass were a “mistake,” but also blamed states for how they have implemented crime policy.

  • Trump questioned the value of masks, suggesting scientists are divided about their worth. That’s largely false. “Masks are not perfect, but they offer significant protection,” as Apoorva Mandavilli, a Times science reporter, told me.

  • Biden dodged questions about whether he would try to add justices to the Supreme Court, saying he wanted to keep the focus on Republicans’ attempt to jam through a nominee. Biden added that he would clarify his position after the Senate votes on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination.

  • Trump disavowed white supremacists, but refused to denounce the QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims that prominent Democrats are running child sex-trafficking rings. He instead praised its followers.

  • Biden pledged to reverse Trump administration policies that discriminate against transgender people.

  • Trump seemed to confirm a recent Times report that he has $400 million in outstanding debts.

  • Biden said the president deserved “a little” credit for an accord between Israel and Arab nations, but accused Trump of abandoning American allies, emboldening autocrats and having “no coherent plan for foreign policy.”

  • Trump shrugged off a question about his recent retweet spreading a false story about Biden’s record on military policy, saying he was simply trying to “put it out there.” Guthrie replied: “You’re the president. You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.”

  • Asked what it would say about the country if he loses, Biden said: “It could say that I’m a lousy candidate, that I didn’t do a good job. But I think, I hope, that it doesn’t say that we are as racially, ethnically and religiously at odds as it appears the president wants us to be.” Biden continued to answer voters’ questions, from afar, after the event ended.

Will the events matter? Probably not. Presidential debates rarely cause major shifts in the polls, and these events were less memorable than a debate. But it’s always hard to know what matters in presidential politics.

Analysis: “My focus group applauds Biden’s humility tonight. If this race were about persona, Biden would win the vast majority of these undecided voters — but his policies scare some of them,” Frank Luntz, the conservative pollster, wrote.

Maggie Haberman, The Times: “The president feels aggrieved, in case that isn’t clear. He knows the polling shows he’s trailing Biden and he’s consumed by it, because he doesn’t respect Biden, and can’t imagine losing to him.”

David Freedlander, Politico Magazine: “Having separate televised interviews is way more interesting and informative than having these guys on stage at the same time.”

For more: See The Times’s main story; a longer list of highlights; a fact check; and Times Opinion writers on the night’s best and worst moments.

What’s next: Trump and Biden have both signaled they will show up for next week’s debate — on Thursday — which is the final one scheduled.


  • YouTube says it will prohibit videos promoting conspiracy theories that “justify real-world violence.” In effect, it is banning QAnon, the sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy that found much of its audience through the site.

  • U.S. authorities arrested a former Mexican defense minister on drug charges after he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport.

  • Nearly half of the continental U.S. is in a drought. It’s the most severe U.S. drought since 2013, and could lead to more wildfires.

  • The president of Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia’s only democracy, says he plans to resign. He has been in hiding since opponents stormed government buildings in protest of a rigged election.

  • A Morning read: Hong Kong is better known for its high-rises than its biodiversity. But nighttime hikes offer locals a chance to get hands-on with the wildlife.

  • Lives Lived: In 1963, Bernard Cohen, a lawyer for the A.C.L.U., got a letter from a woman named Mildred Loving asking for help. He took her case — Loving v. Virginia — to the Supreme Court and won a ruling that struck down laws against interracial marriages. Cohen has died at age 86.

For a Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett didn’t spend an unusual amount of time talking about her family at her confirmation hearing. Each of the previous two nominees to the Supreme Court — Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch — mentioned his family more than Barrett did, as you can see in our analysis below.

In part, the pattern seems to reflect changing times: As the Supreme Court has become more politicized, family has become a strategic way to humanize a nominee. Antonin Scalia had even more children than Barrett — nine — and yet they played only a modest role in his 1986 nomination hearing.

Of course, Barrett and Scalia are also different in another way: She is a mother, not a father.

Light and spicy, this red lentil soup is packed with flavor and painless to make. Lemon adds brightness to the deep cumin and chile flavors.

In an effort to encourage more sustainable living, the Swedish furniture giant Ikea will be buying back some of its own used furniture from customers in 27 countries. The company will resell, donate or recycle the items.

While the program won’t be available in the U.S., Vox reports that the furniture resale market is thriving. With people leaving cities during the pandemic, there is plenty of furniture available at cheap rates online. “I will probably never buy another new piece of furniture again,” one shopper gushed.

With a coronavirus-shortened Broadway season, this year’s Tony Awards nominations came from a pool of only 18 plays and musicals, compared with last year’s 34. Some categories featured fewer nominees than usual: For leading actor in a musical, Aaron Tveit of “Moulin Rouge!” is competing against no one. (He will need to secure 60 percent of the vote to win.) “Slave Play” received more nominations than any previous play, and the musical “Jagged Little Pill” scored the most nominations over all: 15.

  • A Florida city is selling 36 white swans — all descended from a pair that Queen Elizabeth II donated in 1957 — to ease overcrowding at a lake.

  • Jimmy Kimmel criticized NBC, the former home of “The Apprentice,” for hosting Trump’s town hall forum.

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