Mr Biden criticized Mr Trump for his handling of the crisis, accusing the president of hiding the seriousness of the threat from the American public and of having no plans to tackle a disease that has killed 220,000 Americans.
“Whoever is responsible for these many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,” Biden said during the debate in Nashville, Tennessee, which comes 12 days before the Nov. 3 election.
Mr Trump repeated his mantra that the pandemic will “go away” and said a vaccine could be ready before the end of the year.
“We are turning the round,” Trump said, accusing the former US vice president of wanting to keep the country locked. “We can’t lock ourselves in a basement like Joe does.”
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Mr Trump has repeatedly accused Mr Biden of profiting from his son Hunter’s business activities in China – echoing a conspiracy theory that has been championed by some Republican allies – without providing evidence.
Mr. Biden pushed back, saying, “I’ve never taken a dime from a foreign source in my life.”
After several exchanges, Mr. Biden ended the fight. “It’s not about his family and my family. This is your family, ”he said, prompting Mr. Trump to accuse him of evading the allegations.
Asked about a new report from the Director of National Intelligence that Russia and Iran were trying to interfere in the election, Mr Trump said Russia did not want him reelected, despite intelligence officials Americans have asserted the contrary.
Mr Biden warned that any country intervening in the vote would pay the price. “They are interfering with American sovereignty,” he said.
The Democratic challenger also accused Mr. Trump of getting close to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un whom he called a “thug.” The president responded by saying that Barack Obama characterized North Korea as America’s greatest threat and suggested that he brought the United States back from the brink of nuclear war with Pyongyang.
“Having a good relationship with the leaders of other countries is a good thing,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr Biden replied, “We had a good relationship with Hitler before he invited the rest of Europe.”
The event was more civil than the first debate between the two men in Cleveland, Ohio, when Mr. Trump repeatedly interrupted Mr. Biden, who at one point told him to “shut up.” This chaotic spectacle triggered a format change to make it harder for contestants to cut off.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced last week that it would cut a candidate’s microphone when his opponent made two-minute opening remarks in each segment of the debate.
The debate in Nashville is the last time the candidates meet before the election, providing one of the last opportunities for Mr. Trump to change the course of the race.
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Mr Biden leads national polls by 7.9%, according to an average of recent polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. He is also ahead in all swing states except Ohio. Mr Biden is also close to Mr Trump in Texas, who holds the second-highest number of electoral college votes and has not voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
The candidates were originally scheduled to meet in three in-person debates, but the face-to-face scheduled for Oct. 15 was canceled after Mr. Trump refused to participate in the virtual event proposed by organizers following his diagnosis Covid-19.
Mr. Trump entered Thursday’s debate by attacking the media. He accused NBC News moderator Kristen Welker of bias and posted footage from an interview he did with 60 minutes, the CBS News show, before it was televised on Sunday, claiming he had been treated unfairly.
“Look at the prejudice, hatred and rudeness on the part of 60 minutes and CBS. Tonight’s anchor Kristen Welker is much worse! the president said in a tweet.
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