Within minutes of it coming to a close, the TV first debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump had been branded a “national embarrassment” by CNN host Wolf Blitzer.
The chaotic debate was marred by President Trump repeatedly shouting over both his opponent and moderator Chris Wallace.
He refused to condemn white supremacists and to promise to accept the result of the election.
And in a chilling moment, Trump – refusing to urge his supporters not to take to the streets in a violent uprising – warned the November 3 poll was “not going to end well.”
A bare knuckle clash was widely expected ahead of the debate in Cleveland, Ohio.
But few expected the extent of President Trump’s bad behaviour, which saw him angrily clash with Fox News Sunday host Wallace.
Here’s a round up of the most shocking moments from the first TV debate of the 2020 US Presidential election.
1. When Trump told violent white supremacist groups to ‘stand back and stand by’
President Trump refused to condemn white supremacists during the presidential debate before attacking the left wing.
The incumbent US President danced around a question from moderator Chris Wallace about whether he was willing to call out those associated with the far right ideology.
“I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not the right wing,” Trump said. “I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”
When pressed further, Trump said: “What do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me a name?”
Finally, he said: “Proud Boys – Stand back, stand by.
“But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not right-wing problem… This is a left wing problem.”
Within minutes of the debate ending, it had been reported that Proud Boys supporters had turned Trump’s words into a logo.
2. When Trump refused to promise not to try to claim victory before all the votes are counted
Trump refused to promise he won’t claim victory in the Presidential election before all votes are counted and independently verified.
And he urged his supporters to go to polling places on election day and watch for evidence of “fraud.”
Asked whether he would tell his supporters to remain calm, and would wait to claim victory until votes are counted, he said he couldn’t promise to do that.
He told moderator Chris Wallace: “I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen.”
He added: “I hope it’s a fair election. If it’s a fair election, I’m on board.
“But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that.”
In a chilling moment, the President added: “This is not going to end well.”
Earlier in the debate, Trump urged to disavow white supremacist groups, the President instead said they should “stand down and stand by”.
The President has previously caused alarm by refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the November 3 poll.
He’s repeatedly made unfounded claims that mail-in ballots – which are expected to be vastly more popular in this year’s election due to the Covid-19 pandemic – are vulnerable to fraud.
Asked the same question, his opponent Joe Biden said: “Yes. Here’s the deal. We count the ballots.
“Some of those ballots cannot be opened until election day. And if there’s thousands of ballots, it’s going to take time to do it.”
He added: “He has no idea what he’s talking about. I will accept it, and he will do – you know why? Because once all the votes are counted, that’ll be the end of it.
“And if it’s me, then fine. And if it’s not me, I’ll support the outcome. And I’ll be a president not just for Democrats, I’ll be a president for democrats and republicans.”
3. When a frustrated Joe Biden seethed: “Would you shut up?”
Trump was branded “clown” and told to “shut up” by Joe Biden as the debate began to descend in to chaos.
The President left both Biden and moderator Chris Wallace frustrated after he repeatedly interrupted them during the first segment of the 90 minute showdown – about the Supreme Court.
“Can you see what this clown is doing?”, the former Vice President fumed.
“Would you shut up, man? That was a real productive segment. Keep on yapping.”
4. When it got so bad that Chris Wallace had to give Trump an actual telling off
Trump – and to a lesser extent, Joe Biden – were told off by moderator Chris Wallace as the debate descended into a full-on trainwreck.
As the Fox News Sunday host attempted to end the second segment, both candidates continued to speak over him.
Trump demanded a chance to continue speaking, an increasingly impatient Mr Wallace repeated “no”.
“The answer to the question is no,” he said as Trump and Democrat Biden continued to attempt to speak.
“Sir, sir. You know what? You’re…Stop!” said the moderator.
Eventually the two candidates were silenced, as Mr Wallace shouted: “Gentlemen! I hate to raise my voice but why shouldn’t I be different to the two of you?”
5. When Biden attacked Trump’s record on coronavirus
Biden sharply attacked Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying the President had “panicked” and failed to protect Americans while Trump defended his approach.
“He panicked or he looked at the stock market,” Biden said of Trump, who has pushed for states to reopen their economies and played down the threat of the pandemic.
“You’re the worst president America has ever had,” Biden said, urging him to get off the golf course and get to work.
Trump defended his approach on the pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States and put millions of Americans out of work.
“We’ve done a great job,” Trump said. “But I tell you, Joe, you could never have done the job we’ve done. You don’t have it in your blood.”
6. When Trump repeated a string of dubious claims about Biden’s children
In response to the President’s reported remarks branding servicemen and women ‘losers’, Biden made an emotional speech about his late son Beau Biden.
Beau, the former Vice President said, served in Iraq and was “not a loser.”
But Trump took the opportunity to attack Biden’s other son, Hunter, with a string of unsubstantiated claims about his business dealings.
And he claimed Hunter Biden had been dishonourably discharged from the miltary for taking drugs, which is untrue.
Hunter Biden tested positive for drugs as a commissioned Reserve officer, and was administratively discharged, not dishonourably discharged.
Following the attack, Joe Biden turned to the camera and admitted his son had had a drug problem – but he said he was proud that he had overcome it.
7. When Trump claimed to have paid “millions” in income tax
Trump didn’t mince words when Wallace asked him what he paid in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, after the New York Times reported that his tax returns showed only a $750 payment in each year.
Offering no evidence, Trump said he had paid, “millions of dollars. And you’ll get to see it,” despite his refusal to release any returns since he became a candidate in 2015, breaking with decades of tradition.
“Show us your tax returns,” Biden interjected.
Trump attempted to walk a fine line, claiming he owed a hefty tax bill while also defending his efforts to pay as little taxes as possible, and blaming Biden and former President Barack Obama for helping him to do so via the tax code.
When Wallace turned to Biden, the Democrat quickly pivoted to his economic plan, saying he would repeal Trump’s tax cuts that largely benefited corporations and the wealthy, and the discussion turned to the trillions of dollars those proposals represent.
Left unmentioned were many of the allegations in the Times report: tax deductions for hair styling and private jets, no income tax paid in 10 of the last 15 years, a massive $72.9 million tax refund that is the subject of a long-running audit.
It may have been a missed opportunity for Biden. He has worked hard to reach out to the working-class white voters at the heart of Trump’s base who might be particularly offended by Trump’s minuscule tax payments.
8. When Trump invited a right-wing MMA fighter as his guest for the debate
Controversial UFC star Colby Covington was on Trump’s guestlist for last night’s debate in Cleveland.
Ann Dorn, whose retired police officer husband was killed amid anti-racism protests in St. Louis in June, was also among Trump’s guests, a month after appearing in a video on his behalf at the Republican National Convention.
Trump has hammered away at a “law-and-order” message in response to widespread civil unrest over police brutality and racism and accused Democrats of failing to support law enforcement.
Biden’s guests included Kristin Urquiza, whose father, a Trump supporter, died of the coronavirus after dismissing its deadliness.
The former vice president has sought as much as possible to turn the campaign into a referendum on Trump, and specifically on his handling of the outbreak, which has killed more than 205,000 Americans.