Discussions on race and racism dominated a substantial portion of the debate, with the former vice president calling the current president “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history”.
Mr Biden said the president “pours fuel on every racist fire” and noted that at his last debate the president would not condemn white supremacy and told an extremist group to “stand down and stand by”.
However Mr Trump portrayed himself as a champion of black people, repeating his standard line that no president has done more for black Americans aside from Abraham Lincoln – which Mr Biden sarcastically seized on by referring to the president as “Abraham Lincoln over here”.
You’re all talk and no action, Joe.
Touting criminal justice reform and opportunity zone bills he signed, the president said: “I am the least racist person in this room.”
He also accused Mr Biden and former president Barack Obama of ignoring issues of racial justice when they were in power, attacking the former vice president for his support for a 1994 crime bill which the president said “did such harm to the black community”.
Mr Trump told his opponent: “You’ve done nothing but the crime bill which put tens of thousands of black men in jail.”
He added that Mr Biden had four years as vice president to combat racism but failed to do so, saying: “You’re all talk and no action, Joe.”
Mr Biden said in response he has been trying to change drug sentencing laws that disproportionately harm African Americans and added the public knows his record on the subject.
The former vice president also accused Mr Trump of race baiting, adding that the president “has a dog whistle about as big as a foghorn”.