Trump, Biden spar over COVID-19, economy and racial tensions

In the first presidential debate of 2020, President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden hurled insults at each other in between exchanging jabs over jobs, the pandemic and their records.
8:26 | 09/30/20

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Transcript for Trump, Biden spar over COVID-19, economy and racial tensions
The first high-stakes presidential showdown, throwing jabs and talking over each other, slinging insults on both sides. So how did Donald Trump and Joe Biden do? We go to Jonathan Karl. This debate was a total mess. From the president you had very little offered in the way of a coherent vision of what he would do over the next four years. A lot of bullying, serial interrupting of the moderator. From the vice president a litany of insults at the president. A clown, a racist, Putin's puppet. This was not uplifting in any very little by way of substance. Much more heavy on insults. You could argue neither man won the debate. And in that sense, the real loser was Donald Trump. He needed to change the dynamic, the trajectory of the race and it's hard to see that anything he did in this debate will do that. More on that contentious matchup, here's janai Norman. . Reporter: If you were a voter who wanted to hear what the candidates had to say on the issues, that would be hard, they constantly interrupted each other. Everybody knows he's a liar. But you agree, you're the liar. I want to make sure -- You graduated last in your class, not first in your class. Because you were president screwing things up. You're the worst president America's ever had. Reporter: With polls showing the president trailing in most battleground states, he came out swinging. You could never have done the job we did. You don't have it in your blood. If I may ask my question, sir. Reporter: Moderator Chris Wallace, tasked with trying to contain the melee. I'm the moderator of the I guess I'm debating you rather than him. It's hard to get any word in with this clown. The country would be better served if we could allow both people to speak with fewer interruptions. Reporter: Days after the bombshell reporting that the president had only paid $750 in income taxes. Will you tell us how much you paid in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017? Millions of dollars. You paid millions of dollars. Yes. Millions of dollars, and you'll get to see it. When? Reporter: Stark differences between the two candidates laid bear on the covid-19 pandemic, an issue on which the country doesn't think the president has handled well. When he was presented with the number, he said it is what it is. It is what it is, because you are who you are. That's why it is. The president has no plan. We've done a great job. The only thing I haven't done a good job, and that's because of the fake news. No matter what you say to them, they give you bad press on it. It's fake news. They give you good press, they give me bad press, that's the way it is unfortunately. I don't care. I've gotten used to it. This is the same man who told you by Easter this would be gone away. By the warm weather it'd be gone. Miraculous, like a miracle. By the way, you could maybe inject bleach in your arm and that would take care of it. Reporter: Some of the most contentious moments came during moments about racial justice and policing. This is a president who's done everything as a dog whistle to generate racist division. You talk were helping African-Americans, one in one thousand African-Americans has been killed because of the coronavirus. You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out antifa and other left wing extremist groups. That's right. But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups. Sure. And say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in these cities as we've seen in Kenosha and -- Sure, I'm willing to do that. I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing. What are you saying? I'm willing to do anything, I'm willing to see peace. Say it. Do did. You want to call them, what do you want to call them? White supremacists. Proud boys. Stand back and stand by, but I tell you what. Somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left. This is not a right wing problem. This is a left wing Antifa's an idea, not an organization. Oh, you got to be kidding. Reporter: The president making his case for why voters should choose him. The job that we've done, and I'll tell you something. Some people sea maybe the most important. Bit end of the first team, I'll have approximately 300 federal judges and court of appeals judges. 300, and hopefully three great supreme court judges. Justices. That is a record, the likes of which very few people. And you know one of the reasons I'll have so many judges? Because president Obama and him left me 128 judges to fill. Under this president we've become weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided and more violent. When I was vice president, we inherited a recession. I was asked to fix it. I did. We left him a blooming economy and he caused the recession. With regard to being weaker, the fact is that I've gone head to head with Putin and made it clear to him we're not going to take any of his stuff. He's Putin's puppy. He still refuses to say anything to Putin about the bounty on the heads of American soldiers. Reporter: The former vice president pledging to abide by the voters' choice. His own homeland security director and FBI director says there's no evidence at all that mail-in ballots are the source of being manipulated and cheating. They said that. This is all about trying to dissuade people from voting, because he's trying to scare people into thinking that it's not going to be legitimate. Reporter: While the president continued his unfounded claims that the election will not be As far as the balance rots are concerned, it's a disaster. There's fraud. They found them in creeks. They found some with the name trump the other day in a wastepaper basket. This is going to be a fraud like you've never seen. It's a rigged election. Millions of mail-in ballots have gone out. What are you going to do about and are you counting on the supreme court including a justice Barrett to settle any dispute? Reporter: We asked Rick Klein to fact check some of the biggest moments. President trump claimed we are weeks away from a vaccine for covid-19. That is just not the case. Experts in his own administration and the drug industry are estimating it will be at least mid 2021 before a vaccine is widely available to the public. Vice president Biden said there are 100 million Americans who have preexisting conditions and could lose their health care. It's correct, there are several estimates that there are third of Americans who have preexisting conditions, although those in danger of losing their coverage is half that at most. The president said that problems with mail-in voting are so vast he won't be able to trust the result. That is beyond alarmist. There's been no widespread problems. There are a lot more states doing mail-in voting but no evidence that any of that will contribute to any questioning of the election's integrity itself. Reporter: More than a million Americans have already cast their ballots, with enthusiasm close on both sides, how many minds were changed tonight?

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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