The 90-minute debate, moderated by NBC's Kristen Welker, took place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, covered a wide range of topics, including Covid-19, race, immigration and climate change.
This live coverage has ended. Continue reading election news from October 23, 2020.
Read highlights, fact checks and takeaway below:
Fact check: Was U.S. the first country to shut down travel from China after Covid-19 emerged?
Biden on Thursday said Trump only "shut down" travel from China at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic "late, after 40 countries had already done that."
This is true.
Starting on Feb. 2, the U.S. barred entry by foreigners who had traveled in China in the past two weeks, with some exceptions.
According to a list kept by the Council on Foreign Relations of countries that shut down travel from China because of the Covid-19 pandemic — and when they did it — at least 42 did so before the United States.
The best carbon emission numbers in 35 years? Not so much
Trump just said that U.S. has achieved the best carbon emission numbers in 35 years.
But he has cut funding to EPA and gotten rid of more than 70 environmental regulations, weakening climate protections. The U.S. actually saw the biggest spike in carbon emissions in 2018 since 2000 — that was under Trump.
‘Look at us closely’: Biden draws contrast with Trump
Biden, looking directly into the camera, laid out clearly and effectively what has been at the heart of his campaign message — what he said was the sharp contrast between him and Trump.
“You know who I am, you know who he is," Biden said. "You know his character, you know my character. You know our reputations for honor and telling the truth. I am anxious to have this race. I am anxious to see this take place. The character of the country is on the ballot,” Biden said. “Look at us closely.”
Biden was prompted by criticism from Trump that the Obama-Biden administration had not accomplished numerous things during their eight years in office and had been “all talk and no action.”
Fact check: Does Biden want a fracking ban?
Trump claimed that Biden wants to ban fracking.
"Just like he went at it with fracking," Trump said. If Biden wins, he said, “We’re not gonna have fracking. We’re gonna stop fracking, we’re gonna stop fracking.”
"Then he goes to Pennsylvania after he gets the nomination, and he got very lucky to get it, and he goes to Pennsylvania, and he says, 'Oh, we’re gonna have fracking,'" Trump added.
This well-worn attack against Biden is not true, although Biden’s position on the issue is complicated.
Biden has repeatedly said he will not ban fracking; the policies he has released only call for no new fracking on federal lands. His policy also allows for existing fracking on federal lands to continue, and existing and new fracking on privately owned land to continue.
Biden, however, has also called for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — a plan that would include a systematic departure from the use of fossil fuels, which has implications for fracking. He hasn’t explicitly said how or when that move away from fossil fuels would affect fracking, but Trump has used the proposal to tell audiences, inaccurately, that his opponent wants to ban fracking now.
Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is a practice used to tap into natural gas reserves deep below the earth's surface. It’s a critical issue in states like the battleground of Pennsylvania, where the practice has brought economic prosperity to several once-impoverished areas. It is controversial because many of the chemicals used in the process are toxic to humans and have been known to cause serious health problems in populations near fracking fields.
Trump mocks some undocumented immigrants as having low IQs
During the segment on immigration policy, Trump said the only undocumented immigrants who show up for court hearings are those “with the lowest IQ.”
He was referring to the practice of catch and release, which allows migrants to stay in the country while they wait for hearings on their immigration cases.
The comment drew immediate backlash on Twitter. Trump has questioned the IQs of others in the past, many of whom were people of color.
Fact check: Trump falsely claims 180 million people will lose health care if Biden wins
Trump said Thursday, "We have 180 million people out there that have great private health care — far more than what we’re talking about with Obamacare."
"Joe Biden is going to terminate all of those policies," he added.
"Under what he wants to do, which will basically be socialized medicine, he won’t even have a choice, they want to terminate 180 million plans," Trump added.
Trump has made this claim repeatedly, and NBC News has fact checked it repeatedly. This claim is false. It conflates Biden's plan with those of other Democrats pushing "Medicare for All."
While estimates vary about how many Americans have private insurance, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that 180 million people have private insurance.
But Biden's plan wouldn't end private insurance, though that was part of some of Biden's Democratic primary opponents proposals. Instead, Biden's health care plan would create a public option for those who want to get government health insurance while allowing those with private insurance to stay on their plans.
Many Republicans have sought to tie the proposals for "Medicare for All" to all Democrats — and it is true that many Democratic members of Congress are sponsoring the bill (118 in the House and 14 in the Senate). But Biden has criticized "Medicare for All" throughout his campaign.
On immigration, Biden gives a gentle diss to Obama
Pushed by Trump on immigration and asked about what his administration would do differently from his time as vice president, Biden referenced Barack Obama, but not in a particularly fond way.
"It was a major mistake," Biden said of the Obama-era immigration policies. "It took too long to get it right."
Biden added that things will be different if he's in the big chair.
"I'll be president of the United States, not vice president of the United States," Biden says.
Fact check: Who pays tariffs? Trump says China, Biden says taxpayers
Trump, responding to a question about confronting China, said the country is “paying billions and billions of dollars" to the U.S. and suggested this was money his administration has used to bail out American farmers.
Biden interjected to say that was “taxpayer money” going to the farmers.
So, who is paying for tariffs?
We’ve fact checked this before, and Biden’s right. Tariffs are taxes on goods coming in to the U.S., paid by the importer; those taxes are largely tacked onto the purchase price paid by American consumers.
Tariffs are designed to make foreign-made goods more expensive, boosting domestic producers or, sometimes, forcing international exporters to slash prices to stay competitive. But there's no evidence China has been cutting prices to accommodate Trump’s tariffs, and there’s clear evidence that American families are picking up the tab.
Fact check: Where does Kamala Harris stand on health care?
Trump claimed that Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., supports "socialized medicine."
"He wants socialized medicine, and it's not that he wants it — his vice president, I mean, she is more liberal than Bernie Sanders and wants it even more," Trump said.
Harris' position on health care — at least when she was a presidential candidate — was, in fact, difficult to pin down. In January 2019, she appeared to call for abolishing all private insurance, only to walk it back in May.
Then, during a Democratic primary debate in June 2019, she raised her hand when candidates were asked whether they would get rid of private health insurance. The next day, she said that she had misunderstood the question and that she wouldn't abolish private health insurance in favor of "Medicare for All" if elected — but then she struggled to clarify her position about the role private insurers had to play.
Then, in July 2019, she released a plan that sought to stake out a territory somewhere between "Medicare for All" and the Affordable Care Act, with private insurers allowed to compete in a controlled marketplace dominated by government insurance options. So charges that she has flip-flopped on the issue largely ring true.
But that's mostly irrelevant: As vice president, Harris would be charged with helping to implement Biden's vision on health care — not her own.
Biden's health care plan involves improving Obamacare and creating a public option for those who want to get government health insurance while allowing those with private insurance to stay on their plans.
This is who’s staying on topic (spoiler: both candidates are)
An hour into the debate and the nominees have stuck close to the moderator’s questions.
According to an NBC News analysis, Joe Biden and President Donald Trump have stayed on topic 82 percent of the time. This is better than the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, when the candidates were on topic close to half the time, also according to an NBC News analysis.
Biden tended to stay more on topic for questions about Covid-19. He was on topic for those about 89 percent of the time, and deviated more for questions relating to China, where he has only been on topic for 75 out of 113 seconds. Trump has stayed on topic for questions relating to ethics, where he was on topic the whole time, compared to staying on topic a little more than half the time for questions relating to the election.
See the latest on what the candidates are talking about and whether they’re staying on topic with the interactive NBC News presidential debate tracker.
No one knows what Trump’s ‘big, beautiful health care’ looks like
Trump has long promised a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, with a plan that will provide people "big, beautiful health care,” going back to January 2017, when he told The Washington Post he would provide “insurance for everybody.”
The president has continued to say he will soon pass a new health care plan and told his supporters not to worry about overturning Obamacare because his plan will protect pre-existing conditions. In July, Trump told Fox News he would sign a bill within two weeks. In August, he said at a press briefing they would have the plan at the end of the month.
The White House and Republicans still have not disclosed their plan, and it is unclear whether they have one.