The first presidential debate has been eviscerated by those in the US media, with it being slammed as a “disgrace” and a total “sh*tshow”.
President Donald Trump and Democratic opponent Joe Biden went head-to-head in a public arena for the first time Wednesday in a debate that frequently devolved into a shouting contest.
In what was described as “three men yelling over one another”, many in the American media and commentariat were quick to blast the spectacle in unusually scathing language. The Washington correspondent for The Guardian described it as a “national humiliation”.
In comments immediately following the debate broadcast, NBC correspondents described it as a “hot mess” and a “train wreck”, saying viewers were better served in turning it off.
"It was a train wreck. But it was a train wreck of the making of one person. We know who did it. President Trump did this," chided TV journalist Chuck Todd, who has moderated previous presidential debates.
He said there would be "pity for those who had to be involved in it."
Meanwhile, on the similarly left-leaning CNN network, journalist Jake Tapper didn’t hold back in his assessment of the night.
“That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,” he said. “It was the worst debate I have ever seen. In fact, it wasn’t even a debate, it was a disgrace.”
Mr Tapper largely laid the blame at the feet of the president who continued to interrupt throughout the night.
“It’s primarily because of President Trump who spent the whole time interrupting and lying.”
The presenter said it was hard to imagine a winner of the whole fiasco.
“The American people lost tonight, because that was horrendous,” he said.
In response, CNN presenter Dana Bash put it somewhat more succinctly.
“I’m just going to say it how it is: That was a sh*tshow,” she said on air.
“Apologies for being a little bit crude, but that is really the phrase I am getting from both sides of the aisle. It’s really the only phrase I can think of to describe it.”
“The whole thing was a disgrace,” she later added.
Meanwhile, their fellow anchor Wolf Blitzer called it chaotic and said it raises questions about future debates between the two candidates.
Across the spectrum, the reaction was damning.
“This is the worst presidential debate in American history,” tweeted the Boston Globe’s political reporter James Pindell.
This is the worst presidential debate in American history.— James Pindell (@JamesPindell) September 30, 2020
Others were equally disappointed in the display, taking to social media to criticise the event.
We’ve hit a new low.— Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) September 30, 2020
That was the worst thing I’ve ever seen, and I wrote FANTASTIC FOUR.— Jeremy Slater (@jerslater) September 30, 2020
this is like textbook how democracy ends— Alex Newhouse (@AlexBNewhouse) September 30, 2020
Dr David Smith from the United State’s Studies Centre at University of Sydney said he believes the scathing reaction from much of the US media was earnest.
These cable news networks are very much set-up for events like this, he told Yahoo News Australia, and they would have been upset by such an “unedifying spectacle”.
“They actually hate seeing these norms get trashed like that because these debates are their bread and butter,” he said.
“I’ve seen it described as the lowest point in US democratic history, I wouldn’t go that far but it was pretty bad. It was certainly the worst debate I have seen in my life and I was a high school debate moderator.”
Many online took aim at moderator Chris Wallace from Fox News for his inability to control the debate.
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