The third and final presidential debate gave Donald Trump and Joe Biden the opportunity to make their final pitch to the American people before the 2020 election. For the Democratic nominee, that meant driving home the point that he believes in science, that he’ll take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, that climate change is real, and that systemic racism must be dealt with. For Trump, it meant making it clear that in addition to being a science-denying, QAnon-promoting dimwit, he’s also an actual monster who thinks separating small children from their parents, in some cases permanently, is absolutely fine.
Asked by moderated Kristen Welker about the news that parents of 545 children separated at the border—60 of whom are under the age of five—cannot be located, Trump defended the policy and gave no explanation for how the government plans to find these people and reunite their families. “Children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels, and they’re brought here and they used to use them to get into our country,” Trump said, which is objectively false, as they are brought here by their parents, which is why it’s called the family separation policy. “We now have as strong a border as we’ve ever had. We’re over 400 miles of brand new wall. You see the numbers and we let people in but they have to come in legally.”
Noting that Trump hadn’t answered the question, Welker pressed: “But how will you unite these kids with their families?”
“They built cages, they used to say I built cages…that was him,” Trump said, pointing to Biden and referring to the fact that the Obama administration did build temporary enclosures but failing, naturally, to mention that his predecessor did not separate families.
“Do you have a plan to reunite the kids with their parents?” Welker asked a third time. Again, Trump responded by claiming that the children “come without the parents, they come over through cartels and through coyotes and through gangs.”
At this point, Joe Biden was given a chance to weigh in and used his time to describe the policy implemented by Trump as the horror show it is. “Parents, their kids were ripped from their arms and they were separated and now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents and those kids are alone, nowhere to go. It’s criminal.”
Then Trump interjected with what he was an apparently believed was an important point that would cast his administration in a much more favorable light. “Kristen, I will say this,” he told the moderator. “They’re so well taken care of. They’re in facilities that are so clean.
Incredibly, Trump then went on to further defend the “zero tolerance” policy, claiming that it was a deterrent and that fewer than 1% of the migrants who are expelled from the U.S. return. “They never come back,” Trump said. “Only the really—hate to say this— but those with the lowest IQ, they might come back.“
Anyway, with regard to Trump’s completely insane claim that the children whose parents can’t be found are well taken care of and in clean facilities, NBC News reporter Jacob Soboroff weighed in on that after the debate, telling Rachel Maddow: “I was one of the reporters I guess the president mentioned, they invited me to go to the epicenter of this policy…what I saw was little children sitting on concrete floors, covered by mylar blankets, supervised by security contractors in a watchtower, it makes me sick every time I recall it. And Physicians for Human Rights…called this torture…the American Academy of Pediatrics called this state-sanctioned child abuse, and the president of the United States I guess interprets that as children being well taken care of.”
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