It was ugly and chaotic from the very beginning and went from worse to worst as time passed by. The first US presidential debate of the 2020 election campaign descended into personal attacks and constant interruptions as commentators spoke of a national embarrassment largely caused by President Donald Trump's aggressive behavior, which saw him attacking Hunter Biden right at the moment when Joe Biden was paying tribute to his other son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015.
The former vice president had brought up Beau, who served in the army, after Trump criticized military members. However, Trump, who was aggressive from the beginning and continued with his interruptions throughout the debate, turned the subject to Hunter alleging that he was paid millions of dollars by "Putin's best friend".
As Ugly as It Gets
On Tuesday, Trump once again brought to the fore one of the biggest claims from the recent Senate GOP Homeland Security Committee's "conflicts of interest investigation" into Hunter Biden. However, the attack was quite unexpected as Trump interrupted Biden when he was paying tribute to his other son Beau, the former attorney general of Delaware who served in the Army. The heated exchange started after Biden started highlighting Trump's reported criticism of military members.
"The way you talk about the military, the way you talk about them being 'losers' and 'suckers,'" Biden began, referencing reporting in The Atlantic. He then took reference of his late son Beau and 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."
However, Trump interrupted and completely diverted the focus from Beau to Hunter. "Really?" Trump said, cutting into Biden's monologue. "Are you talking about Hunter?"
"I'm talking about my son, Beau Biden," Biden said but there was no stopping Trump.
"I don't know Beau. I know Hunter," Trump responded. He fired back saying that Hunter was paid $3.5 million by "Putin's best friend". Trump claimed on the debate stage that "the mayor of Moscow's wife gave your son $3.5 million. What did he do to deserve it?"
The accusation appeared to stem from a claim made in a report released last week by the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Finance Committees. The report claims that a Russian businesswoman wired millions of dollars to an investment firm co-founded by Hunter in 2014. Hunter's attorney has refuted the allegations stating that he neither co-founded the firm nor did he have any financial relationship with the woman.
Trump's Obsession with Hunter
Although Biden in no way was referencing Hunter, Trump launched his attack by interrupting the former vice president. He was so eager to sink his teeth into Hunter that he completely forgot, until a few minutes later, to answer Biden's charge about denigrating members of the military.
"Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged for cocaine use," Trump continued, even as Biden tried to interrupt, calling it "not true." Hunter was discharged from the Navy in 2013 after testing positive for cocaine.
"My son, like a lot of people ... had a drug problem," Biden shot back at Trump defending his son. "He's overtaken it. He's fixed it. He's worked on it. And I'm proud of him," he added.
Trump's fixation on Hunter Biden now stretches over a year. Trump had even requested that the Ukrainian government open an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden that led to his impeachment in 2019. There was no end to Trump's continuous attacks at Hunter although Biden tried to defend his son every time.
"Why was he given tens of millions of dollars?" Trump asked, referring to claims of large amounts received from Ukraine.
"That's been totally discredited," Biden said, jabbing his pen at the camera. "Totally discredited." Wallace jumped in to shout both candidates, again, something he has been doing throughout the evening but it didn't stop the two men from going after each other.
That said, the debate finally circled back around to Biden's original point about Trump's reported comments regarding members of the military. Trump accused Biden of calling members of the military "stupid bastards." "Will you shut up, man?" a dejected Biden told Trump, perhaps the first time in presidential debate history.