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Trump and Biden town halls: highlights and analysis

The events were planned after Trump pulled out of Thursday's scheduled presidential debate.

President Donald Trump and Joe Biden held separate town halls Thursday night after Trump pulled out of the night's scheduled presidential debate last week.

Trump's event, held in Miami, aired on NBC with host Savannah Guthrie from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET. ABC aired Biden's event, hosted by George Stephanopoulos in Philadelphia, from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET. Both segments were town hall-style, meaning the candidates took questions directly from voters.

Trump backed out of the second presidential debate scheduled for Thursday after organizers announced that it was going to be conducted virtually because of his recent Covid-19 diagnosis. The final presidential debate is scheduled for next Thursday, Oct. 22.

Read the latest updates below:

Biden answers question on energizing young, Black voters

Biden was pressed by a young Black voter, one of the crucial voting blocs in this election, about how to energize that base, which is more likely to not vote for either candidate. 

Biden has large support among Black voters, but is lagging in younger Black voters. He has also been sharply criticized for some of his past comments on race, such as saying “you ain’t Black” in response to a question of what he would say to a Black voter who votes for Trump. 

The former vice president did deftly answer the question, however, by talking about making systemic changes to American institutions from criminal justice to homeownership to early childhood learning to closing the racial wealth gap between Black and white Americans.

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Biden fact check: The former VP says Trump downplayed the virus. Did he?

Biden said Thursday that he recognized as early as February, writing in an editorial for USA Today, that Covid-19 was a "serious problem," while accusing Trump of having "denied it."

"We later learned that he knew full well how serious it was when he did an interview with...Bob Woodward, and at the time, he said he didn’t tell anybody because he was afraid Americans would panic."

The facts show that Trump downplayed the severity of the pandemic.

Here’s what Trump said in the early days of the pandemic.

— “We have it very much under control in this country,” Trump said Feb. 23.

— “It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for.  And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner,” Trump said Feb. 26

— “It’s going to disappear.  One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear,” he said February 27. 

— “No, I’m not concerned at all. No, we’ve done a great job with it,” Trump said March 7, when asked by a reporter if he was worried about the virus.

And in interviews with journalist Bob Woodward, referenced by Biden, Trump revealed he knew the virus was deadly and admitted playing it down.

"You just breathe the air and that’s how it's passed," Trump told Woodward on Feb. 7, according to The Washington Post. "And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus."

In a March 19 interview, Trump acknowledged he'd been playing down the threat from the start.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump said. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

Lots of praise for Guthrie on social media

Fact check: Trump misleads on coronavirus death projections

Trump on Thursday claimed that original projections for coronavirus deaths in America said the country would lose 2.2 million people to the virus. 

“We were expected to lose, if you look at the original charts from original doctors who are respected by everybody, two million [and] two hundred thousand people," Trump said. 

This is misleading. Trump is referring to a model published on March 17 by Imperial College London, which did predict that 2.2 million people in America could die from the virus, but only if no mitigation efforts whatsoever were in place.  

In late March, White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told NBC's "TODAY" that the projection of 1.6 million to 2.2 million deaths referred to what could happen if America did "nothing" to stop the spread of the virus.

"If we do things together, well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities," Birx said at the time. 

As of Thursday evening, there have been 218,744 deaths attributed to the virus in America, according to NBC News data. 

Trump still iffy on wearing a mask, despite his own administration's recommendations

Even after being diagnosed with Covid-19, Trump refused to acknowledge the importance of wearing a mask. 

A Miami voter asked Trump if his own experience had made him think differently about wearing a mask, to which Trump responded: "No, because I was OK with the masks. I was good with it. But I have heard many different stories about masks."

Trump inaccurately cited different studies which he claimed cast doubt on the impact of mask-wearing. When Guthrie pushed back, noting that if everyone wore a mask the U.S. could see a significant decrease in cases, Trump appeared to give in.

“Savannah, I say wear the masks," he said. "I am fine with it."

The first half of the town hall focused almost entirely on the virus.

Biden fact check: Have 1 in 5 minority businesses closed because of Covid-19?

Biden on Thursday said at the ABC town hall, "You had in one in five, one in six, minority businesses closing, many of them permanently" because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This appears to be true — and Biden may be understating the closures.

According to a study conducted by Stanford University, more than 1 million black-owned businesses in the U.S. were open in February 2020. But by April, 440,000 black business owners had closed, a drop of more than 40 percent.

Fact check: Trump touts 'amazing' response to Covid-19. The U.S. leads in cases, deaths.

“What we’ve done has been amazing, we’ve done an amazing job,” Trump said on Thursday, claiming that the U.S. is “rounding the corner” with the pandemic.

This is false. The U.S. is facing an uncontrolled outbreak and there are few signs of a turnaround. The U.S. has more cases than any country, with more than 8 million, and more deaths than any country, recently surpassing 218,000.

Cases are high and rising in 28 states; cases are low and rising in 19 states, according to New York Times data. 

Trump dodges QAnon question: 'I know nothing about QAnon'

Trump is asked to denounce QAnon. He does not.

Instead, Trump says he doesn't know about QAnon except that they're against pedophilia, which he says he agrees with. It's at least the second time that Trump has had a chance to put QAnon to rest and avoided it. 

"I know nothing about QAnon," he told Guthrie.

Guthrie pushes Trump hard on whether he knows about QAnon, and Trump pivots to ask her why she's not asking about antifa. 

Biden questioned on if he would take a vaccine approved under Trump

An undecided voter in this election, who voted for President Trump in 2016, asked Joe Biden about his running mate’s comments on taking a vaccine approved under the president. 

Sen. Kamala Harris said during the vice presidential debate last week that if Trump announces a Covid-19 vaccine she wouldn’t take. 

Biden walked a tight line answering the question because Harris was criticized for undermining public health by making the remark. Biden continued to say he would trust doctors and public health experts, but noted that the president has made outrageous comments related to the virus and has also sowed seeds of doubt about treating it.

Biden fact check: Did Trump say people could inject bleach to fight Covid?

Biden on Thursday said at the ABC town hall, "President Trump says things like, everything from ‘that's crazy stuff,’ then he walks away and says inject bleach in your arm and that's gonna work."

That comment is inference to Trump's suggestions that people should inject bleach in their arm to effectively fight off Covid-19.

Trump did indeed speculate that an injection of disinfectants like bleach could have a curative effect. 

"And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" Trump said during a news conference at the White House in April, after a briefing from a Homeland Security official who described the ability of disinfectants like bleach to kill the coronavirus on surfaces. 

"Because, you see, it gets on the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that. So that you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds — it sounds interesting to me."

Trump clashes with Guthrie after question about white supremacy

Trump came under fire in the last debate after he failed to denounce white supremacists and the Proud Boys.

“I denounced white supremacy for years,” Trump claimed, complaining that Guthrie and other people in the media keep bringing up the topic.

But Trump repeatedly dodged attempts to get him to condemn these groups that have expressed support for him, despite being given multiple opportunities to do so.