The 12 most shocking moments from the first presidential debate


The first debate was a thunderbolt a minute.

One thing on which critics on both sides of the aisle agree: The first presidential debate Tuesday night was bedlam.

Right out of the gate, Donald Trump was steamrolling over his opponent Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace in a no-holds-barred effort to speak whatever crossed his mind, as soon as it crossed his mind.

Lucid debate was off the table as Biden attempted to get a word in edgewise and Wallace attempted to moderate proceedings and quell rising tempers all at once.

Even amid an evening of mass chaos, a few moments stood out as particularly shocking.

Wallace chews out Trump for interrupting

Overtaxed and frustrated with the White House occupant's constant interrupting, Wallace was eventually was forced to shout over the two men in a last-ditch effort to get Trump's attention.

"I think the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions," Wallace said, turning to Trump. "I'm appealing to you, sir, to do that."

"Well, and him, too," Trump said, interrupting him.

"Well, frankly you've been doing more interrupting," Wallace said.

Biden tells Trump to "shut up, man"

Wallace wasn't the only one growing frustrated with the constant interruptions. When the moderator turned the line of questioning to Biden's thoughts on ending the filibuster or packing the Supreme Court, Trump repeatedly interrupted the former vice president until finally Biden snapped.

"Are you going to pack the court? Are you going to pack the court?" Trump demanded, as Biden attempted to answer the question.

Biden eventually fired back, "Will you shut up, man?"

The remark quickly sparked a trend on social media.

By the end of the evening, the Biden campaign was selling, "Will you shut up, man?" merchandise in homage to the comment. (As of Wednesday afternoon, it appeared to have sold out or been removed from the campaign website.)

Trump claims to have built the "greatest economy in the history of our country"

During Tuesday's debate, Trump claimed he had built "the greatest economy in the history of our country" since taking office.

While it's not the first time Trump has made such a wild claim, it may be the most egregious.

Even last month, as 10 million Americans were out of work due to his botched pandemic response, Trump was tweeting: "My Administration and I built the greatest economy in history, of any country, turned it off, saved millions of lives, and now am building an even greater economy than it was before."

But in December 2017, Trump promised to grow the economy to "4, 5 and even 6%" — and never delivered.

In fact, since Trump took office, not a single quarter has seen even a 4% growth rate, and a contraction of more than 31% occurred between early April and late June.

During his time in office, President Barack Obama's administration saw multiple quarters demonstrating over 5% growth. Historically, Harry Truman's administration brought growth of 16.7%, 12.8%, 16.4% and 7.9% in 1950 — also contradicting Trump's baseless claims.

Trump claims he's lowered drug prices and that insulin is "cheap ... like water"

One perplexing moment came when Trump bragged about lowering drug prices to the point where insulin was as "cheap" as "water."

Though Trump has potentially cut insulin costs for a small group of senior citizens with the "favored nations measure," insulin still costs about $300 a vial for the average American, with most diabetic patients requiring two or three vials a month, and there's no data to suggest that the cost of any prescription drugs has consistently gone down and remained down during Trump's time in office.

Trump firing potshots at Hunter Biden as Biden discusses war hero son Beau

In a particularly low moment, Trump leveled attacks at Biden's son Hunter as the former vice president spoke of his late-son Beau's military service.

"The way you talk about the military, the way you talk about them being 'losers' and 'suckers,'" Biden said. "My son was in Iraq. He spent a year there. He spent a year there. He got the Bronze Star. He got the Conspicuous Service Medal. He was not a loser. He was a patriot and the people left behind there were heroes."

Trump interrupted. "Really? Are you talking about Hunter?"

"I'm talking about my son, Beau Biden," Biden countered.

"I don't know Beau. I know Hunter," Trump shot back.

Trump also falsely asserted that Hunter Biden was dishonorably discharged for cocaine use. As Politico noted, this is a lie, one Biden corrected immediately.

"My son ... like a lot people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem," he said. "He's overtaken it, he's fixed it, he's worked on it."

He added, "And I'm proud of him. I'm proud of my son."

Trump openly incites white supremacist groups to violence

In an unnerving moment for the whole country, Wallace asked Trump to denounce white supremacist and white nationalist groups. Trump, not unpredictably, refrained.

"I'm willing to do anything. I want to see peace," he said. "What do you want to call them? Give me a name."

Wallace mentioned "white supremacists and white militia," while Biden added, "Proud Boys."

"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," Trump responded. "But I'll tell you what, I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem."

The Proud Boys, deemed a violent "hard-core white supremacist" group by the Anti-Defamation League, took Trump's words as a call to action.

After Trump's comments, the group replied from its official Telegram social media account: "Standing down and standing by sir."

Trump denies that 100 million with preexisting conditions exist

During the course of the night, Biden suggested that 100 million Americans with preexisting conditions could be out of luck if the Affordable Care Act was repealed.

"There [are] a hundred million people that have preexisting conditions, and they'll be taken away as well, those preexisting condition — those insurance companies are going to love this. That's not appropriate to do this before this election," Biden said.

Trump repeatedly asserted that Biden's number was incorrect.

But Biden's numbers are mostly on point. A 2017 study released by the Department of Health and Human Services found that, while exact totals are difficult to calculate, between 61 million and 133 million Americans have preexisting health conditions.

Trump doubles down on his assertions of widespread mail-in voter fraud

Baffling viewers, Trump claimed Tuesday night that West Virginia mailmen were "selling votes."

"Take a look at West Virginia — mailmen selling the ballots," he said. "They're being sold. They're being dumped in rivers. This is a horrible thing for our country."

According to the Justice Department, in April, a lone West Virginia mail carrier pleaded guilty to attempted election fraud after he altered eight absentee ballots and ballot request forms.

Interestingly, the party affiliations on five of the ballot request forms had been changed from "Democrat" to "Republican." But nobody was selling any votes, and Trump's other claims of Pennsylvania mail-in voter fraud have been debunked as human error as well.

Trump undermined the election and urged supporters to commit voter intimidation

Trump repeatedly insisted that the results of the election would be fraudulent and unjust, appealing to his already paranoid voter base.

He urged his followers to "go into the polls and watch very carefully" — despite poll watching being illegal in many states if watchers are not pre-approved to be there.

Trump also complained about poll watchers in Philadelphia being asked to leave in a recent incident. While Philadelphia officials have conceded that Trump supporters were barred from watching at some election offices Tuesday where ballots can be dropped off, they were barred because they weren't certified to be there and were attempting to illegally watch polls in a county in which they weren't registered to vote.

Trump skirts the income tax question

Trump blew off a question by moderator by Chris Wallace on Tuesday for one reason: He didn't want to answer it.

Wallace asked whether it a bombshell New York Times report stating that Trump had only paid $750 in income tax in 2016 and 2017 was true.

"I paid millions of dollars in taxes, millions of dollars of income tax," Trump claimed.

Biden countered, "Show us your tax returns."

Trump appeared to once again allude to the questionable claim that he can't release them due to an ongoing IRS audit.

Wallace never really did get his answer.

Trump refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power

Alarmingly, when Wallace asked Trump on Tuesday night if he would agree to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost the election in November, Trump did not exactly say yes.

Wallace queried whether Trump would "pledge tonight that [he would would] not declare victory until the election has been independently certified."

Trump responded, "If I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can't go along with it."

Again, claims of widespread mail-in ballot fraud have been repeatedly debunked, despite what Trump suggested.

Trump openly admits to his plan to steal the election

Perhaps most disturbing, as the debate neared its end, Trump seemed to openly admit that he was depending on the the Supreme Court to help him win in a contested election.

It certainly explained his hurry to push through Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Just last week, Trump mused, "I think this will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices." on Tuesday night, he seemed to reiterate his assertion, saying that he would ask the court to "look at the ballots" if he lost.

"Did Trump just say that the Supreme Court would look at all the ballots cast in the [election]?" Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a former Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted Tuesday night.

"Trump is literally discrediting our election system in front of the American people. This is what dictators do. He knows no limits. He knows he can’t win if everyone votes. Vote."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.