Politics

Atlantans, Debate Experts React To First Presidential Debate

President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden take part in their first presidential debate Tuesday in Cleveland.
President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden take part in their first presidential debate Tuesday in Cleveland.
Credit Julio Cortez / Associated Press

Much like Tuesday night’s first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, reactions to it on social media were ruthless.

Renowned journalist Soledad O’Brien tweeted criticism about the moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, saying that he was “not good — even outside the terrible format.”

Elected officials nationwide didn’t hold back their frustrations on Trump constantly downplaying the devastation from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Daily Show” host Trevor Noah tweeted that “Chris Wallace’s debate performance tonight is a great reminder that kindergarten teachers are underpaid.”

And if you happened upon a conversation around Atlanta the morning after, there’s a good chance you heard someone talking about that chaotic hour-and-a-half. Particularly, the point when Trump was asked by Wallace, and Biden, to denounce white supremacy, and he declined to explicitly condemn far-right groups like the Proud Boys.

Instead, Trump told the group to “stand back and stand by,” and went on to clarify, “But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”

The Proud Boys, designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, celebrated his comments on social media.

Shubh Singhi, who lives in Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood, struggled to process what he saw the morning after at a local coffee shop in the Old Fourth Ward. He said the debate set an ominous tone of what’s to come as we roll toward November.

“I think what we wanted to see was an intelligent debate with some civility, and some actual ideas being thrown around,” Singhi said.

“Instead, what we got was a bloody cage fight, that was mean-spirited. I don’t think it helped change any minds.”

The debate, which was held at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, is the first of three scheduled between Trump and Biden before Nov. 3.

University of North Georgia communications professor Tom Preston spoke to WABE’s “All Things Considered” host Jim Burress about how effective the debate was in shaping viewers’ minds, and what this means come Election Day.

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