'A reality show': World reacts to Trump-Biden debate

A newspaper vendor in Hong Kong, China, distributes a daily featuring coverage of the US presidential debate
A vendor in Hong Kong, China, sells newspapers covering the US debate [Getty Images]

A weak Joe Biden self-destructed in front of the whole world, while an aggressive Donald Trump told lies and mangled his sentences in a presidential debate that was like a reality show, according to international media.

The verdicts of pundits from around the globe to Thursday night’s televised clash in Atlanta, Georgia, between the two White House rivals was damning.

From Beijing to New Delhi and beyond, the reviews were most scathing of President Biden’s performance at the CNN forum, but his Republican challenger did not escape criticism.

Russian media brand Biden 'total failure'

Even before last night's debate, the main evening news shows on Russian TV on Thursday were speculating that Mr Biden would not be able to survive it.

"An hour and a half live on air is a test of mental and physical fitness," Channel One said, asserting that Mr Biden would "find it difficult to withstand this".

Both state-owned Channel One and Rossiya 1 reported opinion polling showing that some 60% expected Mr Biden to be given a stimulant to get through the debate.

Afterwards, pro-Kremlin commentators portrayed Mr Biden's performance in the debate as lacklustre.

Military blog Rybar branded his performance a "total failure"; while the Telegram channel of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine said that Mr Biden had failed to prove that he was in "proper physical shape" to lead the country and that his performance "appears to have frightened his supporters".

Rossiya 1 TV said on Friday morning that voters were concerned about Mr Biden's "mental health".

It also highlighted Trump's attacks on Mr Biden's handling of the Ukraine war.

'Like a reality show' - Chinese media

Chinese media were enthused by the theatrics of last night’s debate, and many outlets highlighted that Mr Biden and Trump didn’t shake hands at the beginning of the debate and went on to launch “fierce personal attacks against each other”.

The state-owned Global Times describes the debate as “like a reality show”.

Chinese satirical cartoons often depict a fierce, quite literal, battle between the two candidates, but Chinese audiences enjoyed the more quirky aspects of the debate, such as the pair going “off topic to discuss their golf skills”.

Generally, Chinese media want to paint a picture for audiences of general apathy and frustration among US voters at both candidates.

Global Times says they were both scrutinised over their “age and stamina”; noting that on the campaign trail, Trump was “frequently mangling his sentences” and that Mr Biden “often makes verbal slip-ups”.

Some outlets take aim at Trump over “lying” and Mr Biden “mumbling”.

China frequently highlights growing divisions in US society and often suggests the US may descend into civil war.

The overall message is that both Trump and Mr Biden are “currently facing difficulties”.

After last night’s debate, many took to social media to express “concerns about America’s future”, Xinhua news agency says.

Indian media highlight 'aggression' of Trump

Prominent Indian media outlets highlighted a "shaky" performance by Mr Biden and "aggression" by Trump in their coverage of the debate.

Analysing the "key takeaways", a report on Hindustan Times newspaper's website described the debate as a "high stake face-off that will turn the tide for rest of the campaign".

It said that Mr Biden appeared to be "struggling and even froze several times".

Trump showed "more aggression" and "capitalised on Biden’s missteps" such as during a discussion on immigration, it added.

Some media outlets picked up on Trump's claim Mr Biden was getting "paid by China".

"'Manchurian Candidate, Paid By China': Trump's Big Charge Against Biden," read a headline on the NDTV channel's website.

A report on Firstpost website noted that climate change was a topic where India and China figured in the debate.

The US election result is not expected to change India-US ties much as Prime Minister Narendra Modi - who's just started a third term in power - shares a good rapport with both Mr Biden and Trump.

Israel media talks of Biden 'weakness'

In Israel, media agreed that Mr Biden looked “weak”, and theorised how a Trump presidential win would affect the ongoing Gaza war.

During the debate, Trump said if he was president, the 7 October Hamas-led attack on Israel would not have happened.

Media highlighted Trump’s pro-Israel credentials as he accused Mr Biden of weakness: “He’s become like a Palestinian. But they don’t like him. Because he’s a very bad Palestinian. He’s a very weak one,” Trump said.

Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent for the Walla news site, said that Mr Biden was "unfocused” on the conflict.

"He failed to explain the extent of his support for Israel and it was possible for Trump to attack him, and present him as someone who is trying to prevent Israel from eliminating Hamas," Ravid said.

Ynet’s veteran defence analyst, Ron Ben-Yishai, said: "Trump is now seen as a candidate whose victory in the presidential elections is almost certain, and all the actors and elements, from Russia and Ukraine to Israel and Saudi Arabia, and also Iran, will conduct themselves from now on according to this assumption."

Ben-Yishai said certain elements in Israel ”are already rubbing their hands with joy” at the prospect of a second Trump presidency.

Latin America media say Biden 'hesitant and confused'

Latin America's media were riveted by what they called the "tense" presidential debate, highlighting their rancorous exchanges over immigration, the economy, abortion and global politics.

Many media pundits in the region saw Trump succeeding in stoking doubts about Mr Biden's age by pummelling him energetically on issues sensitive to US voters, such as inflation and immigration.

"Trump corners Biden in tense debate," was how leading Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo headlined its initial report.

Mr Biden’s “hesitant and confused performance… could radically change the scenario of the elections", Folha added.

Posting on X, prominent Mexican journalist Leon Krauze drew a similar conclusion, saying Mr Biden "stumbled, lost his thread and was incapable of showing up the lies of his rival".

Meanwhile, Argentina’s La Nacion said that "the Democrat president was not able to dispel the doubts about his age and his health, and he set off alarms in his party".

Colombian daily El Tiempo saw the exchanges between Trump and Mr Biden characterised by "insults, jibes and few proposals" in which "neither of the two appeared to overcome the concerns over their advanced age".

“The debate shows Trump strong and Biden weak," was how Brazilian daily O Estado de S. Paulo summed up one analysis.

"Biden self-destructed in front of the American public and the world... Biden debated desperately badly," Brazilian analyst Demetrio Magnoli said on the popular G1 news website.

Mexican media cite 'nest of rats' comment by Trump

In Mexico, media tend to be wary of calls from US politicians for drastic measures to stem the flow of migrants and illicit drugs, so reporting on the debate homed in on the repeated clashes over immigration, mostly consisting of Trump slamming what he called Mr Biden's failure to secure the border.

Left-wing Mexican daily La Jornada highlighted the debate "clash over migration and the economy".

"During the first presidential debate, ex-President Donald Trump criticised the immigration policy of the Joe Biden Government and said that migrants would have to be removed from the country for alleged crimes committed against Americans," Mexican daily Reforma told its readers.

In its coverage, Mexican news magazine Proceso focused on Trump asserting that the US had become a "nest of rats" because he said Mr Biden's immigration policies had "opened the door to criminals, murderers and rapists".

Turkish media: New Trump era is approaching

Turkish media outlets and social media users criticised Mr Biden’s “poor” debate performance, which many said led to “panic” among the Democrats.

"Biden had difficulty understanding the questions and hesitated when answering," Hurriyet newspaper said, describing the debate as a "disaster" for Biden.

Academic Hilmi Bolatoglu said in a post on X that Mr Biden’s performance strengthened indications that a “new Trump era is approaching”.

Coverage also raised eyebrows about the general quality of the debate.

"There were many gaffes in the 90-minute debate. Insults and mockery flew in the air, Biden had several hiccups and Trump gave a lot of misinformation," Milliyet newspaper said in a report.

“Looking at… the list of lies and distortions that both leaders told, one wonders which of them American voters will elect to wreak havoc on the world,” veteran journalist Murat Yetkin said on his YouTube channel.

Many pundits in Turkey have long been cool on Mr Biden’s presidency, accusing him of “hypocrisy” on the Israel-Gaza war and voicing doubt about his emphasis on defending the “liberal international order”.

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