How the Clinton-Trump debate unfolded: tough exchanges on racism, tax returns, and ‘stamina’

Clinton says Trump ‘lives in his own reality’ while Trump blasts back that Clinton has ‘done nothing’ in 30 years of public life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 8:34am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 1:59pm

It was the most hotly anticipated US presidential debate in years, as Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump locked horns.

Here’s the SCMP’s running commentary of how the debate at Hofstra University in New York state unfolded, complete with discussion of “racist lies”, Trump’s tax returns, and Clinton’s “stamina”.

10.39am: That wraps it up. A dramatic night, with Trump scoring points in the first half hour, but looking quite angry and taking the bait from both Holt and Clinton on later occasions. Who do you think won? Did Trump succeed in looking presidential? Did Clinton prove she has the “stamina” for the White House? Let us know on Twitter @SCMP_News .

10.37am: Will the candidates respect the outcome of the election, even if they lose? Clinton: “Get out and vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.” Trump: “I want to make America great again [but] if she wins I will absolutely support her.” Sounds quite unequivocal.

10.35am: It’s literally getting ugly. Clinton says Trump has called women “pigs, slobs and dogs”, and says he once described a beauty pageant contestant as “Miss Housekeeping” because she was Latina. “It’s not nice and I don’t deserve that,” says Trump.

10.33am: Trump says he believes Clinton does not have the stamina to be president. Big cheers for Clinton as she cites her experience; bigger cheers from Trump: “She has experience, but it’s bad experience.”

10.28am: On diplomacy, Trump says “China should go into North Korea. China is totally powerful in North Korea.” He’s also critical of the Iran-US nuclear deal and says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is not a happy camper”. Clinton says that Trump criticises Iran deal, but he never says what he’s going to do. “It’s the same with his ‘secret plan’ to defeat Isis.” She says she will “stand up to bullies, whether at home or abroad.”

10.25am: Clinton says Trump’s “cavalier attitude towards nuclear weapons is deeply troubling...A man who can be provoked by a Tweet should not have his finger anywhere near the nuclear button.”

“It’s an old line,” says Trump. “But an accurate one,” Clinton shoots back.

10.20am: Holt says that Trump supported the war in Iraq, but Trump won’t hear anything of it, enunciating: “I did not. Support the war. In Iraq.” Holt insists otherwise, and finally gets out the question: what changed his mind? Trump loses his cool, segues into a riff on his superior temperament: “I have a much better temperament.” The crowd oohs and aaahs. Clinton milks it: “Whoah.” Not a good moment for Trump.

10.16am: On terrorism, Trump takes credit for Nato focusing more on terror and that he wants to “knock the hell out of Isis”.

10.07am: The next question is about national security...who do the candidates blame for cyber attacks on the US? Predictably, Clinton cites the case of Russia, and mentions Trump’s admiration for Putin. Trump says it could have been Russia behind the hacking of the DNC but it “could have been China, could have been a guy who weighs 400 pounds sitting in his bedroom.” And an odd comment as he praises the computer skills of his 10-year-old son: “The security aspect of cyber is very tough.”

9.59am: Holt asks Trump why it took him so long to admit that Barack Obama was born in the US. Trump says “I was the one who got him to produce the birth certificate. I think I did a good job”. Clinton gets a laugh: “Just listen to what you heard.” She says Trump “started his political activity based on a racist lie” and he started his career in the 1970s being sued for racial discrimination; says Trump “has a long history of this racist behaviour”. It’s a prickly moment. Trump has looked confident for most of the debate, but he’s clearly uncomfortable here.

9.53am: Holt asks Clinton if she believes police are “implicitly biased” against black people. Clinton says everyone has to be wary of implicit bias. Trump looks agreeable, nodding as Clinton talks of more training to police. Also says he tends to agree with Clinton about guns and people on watch lists, but isn’t too specific. But he’s back on the offensive as he chides Clinton for her past use of the term “super predators”, that some have taken as racialised.

9.44am: Holt turns to the subject of race. How will the candidates heal the divide? Clinton waffly, wants to restore trust between the citizenry and the police. Trump looks bored, sucking in his cheeks as Clinton takes her time. Trump then starts swinging, and says Clinton is avoiding the use of “two words: law and order”. Says “African Americans and Hispanics are living in hell” in violent inner cities. Trump: “We have gangs roaming the streets and in many cases they are here illegally, they are illegal immigrants.” Clinton says it is “sad” that Trump paints such a dire picture of black communities; Trump lets out an audible groan.

9.36am: Clinton says she made a mistake using a private email server. “That’s for sure,” Trump responds, adding “that wasn’t a mistake, that was done purposefully”. Back to taxes, Trump says he has “tremendous income...and I don’t mean that in a braggadocious way”. Clinton gets an illicit cheer when she says that maybe if Trump paid more tax, the economy might be in better shape. “Do the thousands of people that you have stiffed, not deserve some kind of apology...I can only say I’m glad my late father didn’t do business with you.”

9.32am: Holt asks Trump why he hasn’t released his tax returns. A blustery non-answer from Trump. Holt won’t let go, Clinton nodding. Trump still says he’ll release them when he’s no longer being audited. But Trump gets a naughty cheer from supporters when he says he’ll release his tax returns “when she releases her 33,000 deleted emails”. Holt tells crowd to pipe down. Clinton says maybe Trump isn’t as rich or as charitable as he claims; is he hiding “something terrible”? “There’s something he’s hiding.”

9.27am: Holt asks Trump how he defends his position on tax cuts for the rich. Trump says the wealthy are fleeing the US, bringing them back would be a “beautiful thing”. Clinton gets the reverse, question, how does she defend tax increases? She says “Trumped up, trickle down” economics hasn’t worked. She’s used this line three times so far. Trump says the economy at the moment is a “big fat ugly bubble...when they raise interest rates there’s going to be some very bad things.”

9.22am: Clinton says Trump “lives in his own reality”. Trump getting angry now, pushing hard. He’s not stepping back, talks over both Clinton and Holt, who wants to move on. Shouts about terrorism. Holt observes “you’re unpacking a lot here.”

9.18am: As the first responses drag on, Clinton jabs that Trump believes climate change is a hoax. Trump rolls his eyes: “I did not, I did not say that.” Trump says to Clinton “you’ve been doing this for 30 years ... why are you only just thinking about this [job creation] now?” The candidates start talking over each other a little. Both are getting a bit testy. Trump says Nafta is “worst trade deal ever signed”.

9.14am: Ouch, Clinton mocks Trump’s “perspective” and says he started out in life with US$14million in loans from his dad. Says her working-class start was “a little different”. Trump says he got “a very small loan” from his father, and built a business worth billions. Again, he takes a tilt at China: “what they are doing to us is a very sad thing”. Neither candidate has yet answered Holt’s question about how they are going to create jobs.

9.07am: Holt begins with a question about employment and income inequality, lobbing a softball about why the candidates are best placed to create jobs. Clinton’s got a well-rehearsed answer, pushing for the rich to pay their share to cover for things like better childcare. She also greets Trump and notes the “awesome responsibilities” of the presidency.

Trump responds that China is to blame for job losses in the US and that China is using the US as a “piggy bank” to build their economy. Unusually, he says there are many things he and Clinton agree about. Wants to stop other countries “stealing our trade and our jobs”.

9.04am: Welcome to the SCMP’s live coverage of the first Clinton-Trump debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York state. Moderator Lester Holt and the combatants have taken the stage, Trump wearing a dark suit and blue tie and Clinton in a blazing red pantsuit.

With agencies