A new low for US presidential debates and election integrity

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first 2020 presidential campaign debate held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., September 29, 2020. Photo by Olivier Douliery/REUTERS.

President Trump has done it again, subjecting Joe Biden to interruptions and distractions like those he used against Hillary Clinton four years ago.  Biden struck back by calling the president a clown and a liar. Their performance is seen as a threat to political discussion, the integrity of the November election, and America’s worldwide reputation as a guarantor of democracy through rule of law and free and fair elections. 

KCRW’S Warren Olney talks about the first debate of the 2020 presidential campaign with America’s leading scholar of political communications. The University of Pennsylvania’s Kathleen Hall Jamieson says President Trump’s “distractions and interruptions ... perverted … a hallowed tradition.” 

She says, “Vice President Biden was trying to engage in a more traditional discussion. ... He was frustrated by Donald Trump's capacity to make it more difficult.” Hall Jamieson also concedes that viewers of Fox News will perceive the confrontation differently from audiences of other mainstream news outlets.

Former NATO Ambassador Nicholas Burns says the president “hijacked the entire debate ... to hurt us overseas,” where the U.S. has enjoyed respect for decades as a “mature democracy.” He adds, “The president seems to be torpedoing the election before the votes are cast.”  

UC Irvine Law School Professor Rick Hasen agrees that the president’s unsupported claims of voter fraud imply a lack of election integrity. He says President Trump is threatening the prospects for a peaceful transition if he loses the election.




Warren Olney


Andrea Brody