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Fact checked and flustered, Trump trounced by Clinton in first presidential debate

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

If one were to believe the polls, then Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump is closing the gap on Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Or at least that was before the first presidential debate took place on Monday at Hofstra University.

After the debate, the tide turned completely. Two focus groups of undecided voters said they\'d vote for Clinton 34-8. A CNN poll of debate watchers gave it to Clinton 62%-27%.

The debate itself had three key takeaways - Fact-checking (i.e. who lied the most/who uttered the falsest claims), interruptions and direct attacks ("She doesn\'t have the look. She doesn\'t have the stamina. I said she doesn\'t have the stamina. I don\'t believe she does have the stamina," said Trump). In all three, we had a clear winner - a dominant and self-assured Hillary Clinton.

Before we get into who won the debate, let\'s take a moment to acknowledge what could have been. Here\'s Senator Bernie Sanders, the candidate who fought tooth and nail with Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primaries, watching from the comfort of his home:


While the debate moderators were not allowed to fact-check the candidates during the debate, the internet and the television networks were on hand to help.

The Huffington Post had a live counter of the lies that the presidential candidates conjured up. The outright winner loser here? Donald Trump. The scoreline read 16-0. "Donald Trump lies as fast as he can speak."

At the beginning of the debate, Clinton said Trump was fortunate to start out with a load of $14 million from his father. Trump's immediate response was that his father only gave him a "small loan". The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal both confirmed that he was given the $14 million. Trump had reported this in "in a 1985 casino document".

The other big lie came during the early parts of the debate. Clinton accused Trump of claiming that climate change was a Chinese hoax. Trump's response? "I did not say that". Which is technically true, because he didn't say it so much as tweet it:

Trump also said he opposed the Iraq war much before it began. BuzzFeed unearthed an interview with Howard Stern, complete with audio, that said the opposite.

Finally, there was stop and frisk. Donald Trump's long standing stance is that stop and frisk would lead to a reduction in the crime rate. In effect, he argued, New York's decision to end stop and frisk caused a spike in crime. Clinton claimed that the crime rate had actually decreased. Once again, Clinton was right. Statistics show that murders have decreased year on year.

Trump wasn't nearly done with the false claims though.Speaking of the US' deficit he said, "We have a trade deficit of almost $800 billion a year." Again, wrong. In 2015, the US trade deficit was about $500 billion. Trump was off by the entire GDP of Egypt with spare change left over to buy a veritable armada of yachts.

One of the more minor of Trump's fibs was his statement that the upcoming Trump International Hotel is next door to the White House. It's close, sure, but not next door. In fact, going by Google Maps, it's a good 15 minute walk and six minutes by taxi.

Interrupting each other

According to Vox, Clinton was interrupted 70 times, while Trump was interrupted just 47 times. This includes interruptions by moderator Lester Holt.

Another number, this time from Mic, said Clinton was interrupted 28 times and they even have a short video to drive home the point:

When talking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Trump interrupted to tell Hillary that she called it the "gold standard".

Clinton brought up her website and how they were fact-checking the debate. Trump's response, "take a look at mine also".

"He didn't pay any federal income tax," Clinton said to the audience. Trump once again butted in saying, "that makes me smart".

"I made a mistake using a private email server," Clinton admitted. Trump jumped right in, "that's for sure!"

"Crime has continued to drop, including murders," claimed Clinton. "You're wrong, you're wrong. Numbers are up!" responded Trump.

This was one of the most entertaining interruptions of the night. "Wrong, wrong, wrong!"

Here's a reality check for Donald Trump:

Personal attacks

Each candidate had something personal to say to the other. From taxes to ISIS, the battlegrounds were laid.

ISIS was definitely a contentious issue. About 25 minutes into the debate, Trump had attacked Clinton for having a plan to attack the Islamic State on her website. He told the audience that that was not something Gen. Douglas MacArthur (one of the leaders of American forces in World War II) would have done.

Clinton's response was simple, "Well, at least I have a plan to fight ISIS". Trump was charged up at this point. "You're telling the enemy everything you want to do," he said. Then he made one of his false claims. "You have been fighting ISIS your entire adult life."

Even funnier? The moderator had to remind both candidates that they were actually on the topic of generating prosperity.

Early in the debate, Clinton accused Trump of pushing a "racist lie" vis-à-vis President Obama not being born in the United States of America. "It can't be dismissed that easily. He has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen. There was no absolutely no evidence for it. But he persisted, he persisted year after year," Clinton said.

Clinton even cited some lawsuits in the 70s accusing Trump of discriminating against black tenants. "He has a long record of engaging in racist behavior".

Trump responded by claiming credit for it. When Holt asked why he continued to push the 'birther' theory, Trump said, "Nobody was pressing it, nobody was caring much about it. But I was the one who got him to produce the birth certificate, and I think I did a good job".

Clinton attacked Trump over his taxes. She even suggested, albeit indirectly, that Trump hadn't paid taxes in years. "That means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools and health," Clinton said. Clinton went further saying Trump should pay for the improvement of the country's infrastructure. He simply replied, "It would be squandered too, believe me".

Continuing this line of thought, he said, '"We have a country that's doing so badly, that's being ripped off by every single country in the world. That's the kind of thinking that our country needs".

Finally, it came down to Clinton's stamina. "She doesn't have the look. She doesn't have the stamina. I said she doesn't have the stamina. I don't believe she does have the stamina," Trump said. This came when moderator Holt asked Trump to explain a past comment he made saying that Clinton lacked the presidential 'look'. "You have to be able to negotiate our trade deals ...I don't believe that Hillary has the stamina."

Clinton's response was scathing: "As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a ceasefire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina," Clinton said, prompting cheers from a crowd that was otherwise quiet on the night.

Trump pretty much gave up at that point but marched on saying, "Hillary has experience. But it's bad experience".

Clinton also brought up Trump's treatment of women. "He tried to switch from 'looks' to 'stamina,' but this is a man who has called women 'pigs, slobs and dogs,'" Clinton said. "Someone who has said that pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers, someone who has said women don't deserve equal pay as long as they do as good a job as men".

That was how the debate ended. Attack in the first few minutes and an attack at the very end. Interspersed by interruptions and false claims in the middle. This wasn't an all-out entertainer but the viewers had a ball following the debate nonetheless.

First published: 27 September 2016, 12:49 IST