Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump squared off in a heated U.S. presidential debate on Monday night at Hofstra University in New York. The former Secretary of State accused her Republican rival of racism, sexism, and tax avoidance, while Mr. Trump criticized Mrs. Clinton’s record in the State Department and Senate.
The debate, watched by over 80 million viewers, opened up with a discussion on the state of the U.S. economy, but soon devolved into mud-slinging rather than a serious discussion of policy proposals.
Mr. Trump emphasized the importance of protecting American jobs and manufacturing, lamenting that free trade deals and overregulation have lead to an exodus of U.S. jobs to countries such as Mexico, while allowing rivals like China to outperform the U.S. He called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere,” and similarly criticized the more recent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a secretive free trade agreement initially hailed by Mrs. Clinton.
The Democratic candidate derided Mr. Trump for his plan to reduce taxes on corporations and the wealthy, calling it “trumped-up trickle-down economics.” Mrs. Clinton also questioned her rival’s apparent reluctance to release his tax returns, suggesting the possibility that he has paid little to no federal income taxes in recent years.
“It must be something really important, even terrible, that he’s trying to hide,” she said.
Mr. Trump retorted by saying he would release his taxes if his rival releases her 33,000 State Department emails that she deleted. “As soon as she releases them, I will release my tax returns,” he said.
In a fiery exchange on race relations, Mrs. Clinton accused Mr. Trump of perpetuating a racist lie when he asserted that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and was therefore ineligible to serve as U.S. president.
“He has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen. There was absolutely no evidence for it. But he persisted, year after year,” Mrs. Clinton said.
When asked why he continued to question Mr. Obama’s nationality even after the president released his American birth certificate, Mr. Trump shook off the question, instead emphasizing that he succeeded in getting the president to produce his birth certificate. He also said that Mrs. Clinton should not act “holier than thou,” as she had once referred to young African-American men as “super-predators.”
Mrs. Clinton, the first woman nominated by a major party to run for U.S. president, also accused Mr. Trump of sexism, saying that he “has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs.”
In his retort, Mr. Trump said, “I was going to say something extremely tough to Hillary and her family and I said I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate.” The Republican candidate was likely referring to former President Bill Clinton’s sex scandals, according to some analysts.
Tempers flared again when Mrs. Clinton accused Mr. Trump of supporting the Iraq War that gave rise to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, an accusation Mr. Trump said was wrong. He criticized Mrs. Clinton for failing to defeat IS, saying that the former Secretary of State has been “fighting ISIS [her] entire adult life.” Mr. Trump vowed to defeat the terrorist organization, but did not explain his plan to do so.
After the debate, both candidates claimed victory. A poll conducted by CNN/ORC found that 62 percent of viewers felt that Mrs. Clinton won, while 27 percent thought Mr. Trump emerged victorious. However, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton remain neck-and-neck in national polls. The two will face off again on October 9 in St. Louis and again on October 19 in Las Vegas before the November 8 election.