ABC Ambushes Trump With a Debate at Q&A, POTUS Brings the Heat (Pt.1)

News & Politics

What was pitched to viewers as a “20/20 Special Event” Tuesday, a town hall with President Trump, turned out to be the first 2020 presidential debate. But instead of Democratic nominee Joe Biden as Trump’s opponent, the President squared off against ABC’s chief anchor and Clinton lackey, George Stephanopoulos, who took every opportunity to battle his guest.

Part one in NewsBusters’ analysis of the faux debate will cover their sparing over the coronavirus response, anti-Trump claims made by The Atlantic, and the most heartfelt moment from the night. Part two was conducted here by the indefatigable Curtis Houck and covers their battles over violence in Democratic-led cities, ObamaCare, and race relations. 

Aside from letting some the questioners rhetorically duke it out Trump, Stephanopoulos took it upon himself to be on the debate stage. Their first sparing match happened just seven minutes into the event as he demandedto know, “what did you get wrong” with the coronavirus response?

Stephanopoulos added: “You say a lot of people got things wrong. I mean, you mentioned China at the top right there. All through January and February, you — you — you were downplaying by your own admission the severity of the crisis, that you didn’t want to panic people.

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That kicked off a hefty back and forth over Trump’s handling of the pandemic with ABC “journalist” standing in for Biden (Click “expand”):

TRUMP: Not downplaying, George. George —

STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me finish the question first.

TRUMP: Not downplaying.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But those are your words.

TRUMP: I don’t want to drive our nation into a panic. I’m a cheerleader for this nation. I’m the one that closed up our country. I closed it up long before any of the experts thought I should and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But when I closed it, I put a ban on our country and the ban was a very important ban because China was heavily —

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanted to ask you about China, because —

TRUMP: — China was heavily infected —

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that’s —

TRUMP: By the way, I read where other people said do it, no people that I saw said do it and I know they said security advisers and others. I put a ban on when it wasn’t at all popular. Joe Biden said I was xenophobic because I put the ban on and I thought that was a very unfair — and by the way, he’s totally taken that back, but I’m not sure he knows what it means

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask you about China, though, because at that time, you were actually praising President Xi. You were saying he was transparent, you were saying he was strong, you were saying he was doing a good job. Did you get that wrong? Did you misjudge President Xi?

TRUMP: I don’t think I did. We just finished a trade deal. We just had the largest order of corn in the history of our country last week, the largest order of soybeans, the largest order of beef because they know I’m very unhappy. They know I’m very unhappy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you said he was doing a good job and now you’re blaming China.

Continuing to press the offense, Stephanopoulos moved on to dropping the roughly 195,000 COVID deaths at Trump’s feet and pressed him for an explanation. “When you see that, when you think about that, does that give you any pause, does it make you think, is there anything I could have done differently? Anything you could have done more,” he wanted to know.

After Trump noted that upwards of two million people could have died if he didn’t close down entry into the United States when he did, Stephanopoulos inserted his own narrative: “So, you regret nothing?

Of course, the Clinton lackey brought up Bod Woodward’s book, Rage and the media’s accusations of Trump lying about the virus. Trump recalled that great leaders like Winston Churchill were great leaders because they urged their people to stay calm during hard times. “So you think it’s okay to be dishonest,” Stephanopoulos sneered in response.

And while Stephanopoulos was bringing up instances where Dr. Anthony Fauci disagreed with the President, he failed to note how Fauci refuted the claims in Woodward’s book.

At almost an hour in, ABC’s chief anchor took to assailing the President over the already debunked allegations from the left-wing Atlantic magazine, which claimed he had called dead soldiers “losers” and “suckers.”

Mr. President, you have — you have used language like that in the past. You did say that John McCain wasn’t a war hero and notably silent in the wake of this article where General John Kelly, who was your chief of staff at the time, General James Mattis, who served as defense secretary for you, has said you’re, –-“ Stephanopoulos began before Trump interjected.

Suggesting he was “getting to a broader point,” Stephanopoulos conflated the Atlantic’s claims with claims from former cabinet officials who’ve come out against the President (Click “expand”):

STEPHANOPOULOS: General Mattis said you’re a divider. You’re not trying to unite the country. General Kelly said he agreed with that. John Bolton, who was your national security adviser, said you are a danger to the country. The people in these top military positions who serve most closely with you have said you’re unfit for office. How do you respond to that? How do —

TRUMP: These are people that I let go. These are disgruntled former employees, to put it in a nice way, a term people would understand. Mattis was a highly overrated general. Didn’t do the job. Didn’t do good on ISIS. I took over 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate. I had the people I wanted in. Mattis was fired, as you know, by President Obama and I fired him also.

But while Stephanopoulos was eager to use Bolton’s words against Trump, he failed to note that Bolton had also refuted the accusations made by the Atlantic. Stephanopoulos also decided to debate Trump on whether he fired Mattis or if he resigned. Trump said he asked Mattis for his resignation letter to be “nice.”

In the most touching portion of the town hall, the President showed a softer side when listening to a woman named Flor Cruceta, who had just become a U.S. citizen. Her mother had also recently become a citizen so she could vote in the upcoming election, but she unfortunately past away last month from cancer.

“She was supposed to be here and ask you and thank you for this — if they should take — during this epidemic, you made people closer. We lost our jobs but we learned how to love our family. So I’m saying that from her,” Cruceta said through her tears.

This town hall turned presidential debate was possible because of lucrative sponsorships from Aleve, Ancestry, Nature’s Bounty, and Verizon. Their contact information is linked so you can let them know about the biased program they funded.

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read:

ABC’s The President and the People: A 20/20 Special Event
September 15, 2020
9:07 p.m. Eastern

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what did you get wrong? You say a lot of people got things wrong. I mean, you mentioned China at the top right there. All through January and February, you — you — you were downplaying by your own admission the severity of the crisis, that you didn’t want to panic people.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Not downplaying, George. George —

STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me finish the question first.

TRUMP: Not downplaying.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But those are your words.

TRUMP: I don’t want to drive our nation into a panic. I’m a cheerleader for this nation. I’m the one that closed up our country. I closed it up long before any of the experts thought I should and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But when I closed it, I put a ban on our country and the ban was a very important ban because China was heavily —

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanted to ask you about China, because —

TRUMP: — China was heavily infected —

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that’s —

TRUMP: By the way, I read where other people said do it, no people that I saw said do it and I know they said security advisers and others. I put a ban on when it wasn’t at all popular. Joe Biden said I was xenophobic because I put the ban on and I thought that was a very unfair — and by the way, he’s totally taken that back, but I’m not sure he knows what it means.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask you about China, though, because at that time, you were actually praising President Xi. You were saying he was transparent, you were saying he was strong, you were saying he was doing a good job. Did you get that wrong? Did you misjudge President Xi?

TRUMP: I don’t think I did. We just finished a trade deal. We just had the largest order of corn in the history of our country last week, the largest order of soybeans, the largest order of beef because they know I’m very unhappy. They know I’m very unhappy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you said he was doing a good job and now you’re blaming China.

(…)

9:12 p.m. Eastern

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to move onto some other subjects, but you know, we are still dealing with 195,000 deaths in the United States right now. When you see that, when you think about that, does that give you any pause, does it make you think, is there anything I could have done differently? Anything you could have done more?

TRUMP: I think we could have had 2 million deaths if we didn’t close out the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you regret nothing?

(….)

9:15 p.m. Eastern

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you think it’s okay to be dishonest?

TRUMP: I’m not looking to be dishonest. I don’t want people to panic and we are going to be okay. We’re going to be okay and it is going away and it’s probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccine. It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it’s going to go away a lot faster with the vaccine.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It would go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it could go away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And many deaths.

TRUMP: And you’ll develop — you’ll develop herd — like, a herd mentality. It’s going to be herd developed and that’s going to happen. That will all happen. But with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Got to take a quick break.

TRUMP: But I really believe we’re rounding the corner and I believe that strongly.

(…)

9:56 p.m. Eastern

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, you have — you have used language like that in the past. You did say that John McCain wasn’t a war hero and notably silent in the wake of this article where General John Kelly, who was your chief of staff at the time, General James Mattis, who served as defense secretary for you, has said you’re —

TRUMP: They didn’t hear me said that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: — well, I’m getting to a broader point —

TRUMP: Because I never said it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: — with the generals. General Mattis said you’re a divider. You’re not trying to unite the country. General Kelly said he agreed with that. John Bolton, who was your national security adviser, said you are a danger to the country. The people in these top military positions who serve most closely with you have said you’re unfit for office. How do you respond to that? How do —

TRUMP: These are people that I let go. These are disgruntled former employees, to put it in a nice way, a term people would understand. Mattis was a highly overrated general. Didn’t do the job. Didn’t do good on ISIS. I took over 100 pecent of the ISIS caliphate. I had the people I wanted in. Mattis was fired, as you know, by President Obama and I fired him also.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He says he resigned.

(….)

10:17 p.m. Eastern

FLOR CRUCETA [just became a citizen]: Hi, Mr. President, Mr. George. Hi, everyone. My name is Flor Cruceta. Sorry if I can’t told my tears.

TRUMP: I love what you just did.

CRUCETA: I came here 2006 with my mom from the Dominican Republic.

TRUMP: Alright.

CRUCETA: I’m sorry.

TRUMP: That’s all right. And just take your time. That’s fine. George has plenty of time, I hope, right?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely.

TRUMP: Thank you. Did you say your mom got COVID?

CRUCETA: We come from the Dominican Republic in 2006 to live our American dream. But she forget how to take care of herself and she died last month. I’m sorry.

TRUMP: Terrible. And that’s okay. It’s okay.

CRUCETA: She have [sic] breast cancer but it metastasized in her brain, bone and lungs and she passed on the 19th. One of her biggest dream was to become a citizen to vote, and she did. She did ten days before she died and I did it, too. She pushed me so hard to do it and I did it this past 28th. I’m here because of her. She was supposed to be here and ask you and thank you for the — the issues you take during the epidemic. You make people closer. We lost our job but we learned how to love our family, so, I’m saying that from her.

TRUMP: Very nice.

CRUCETA: Her question for you was, because she wrote this question, what will you do for our immigration system, what would you change, to make more people like me and like her, to become citizens and vote?

(….)

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