News Round-Up: February 9, 2021

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (image via Chasten Buttigieg)

Some news items you might have missed:

Pink News: Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (above) has gone into quarantine for two weeks without his husband Chasten after a member of his security detail tested positive for COVID-19.

C&C: At the end of HIV testing week last week, HIV advocacy group Terrance Higgins Trust revealed that they had seen more tests ordered in that week than ever before. The stats follow the news that AIDS drama It’s A Sin was Channel 4’s most-streamed TV show, ever.

Revry: Continuing its month-long celebration of Black History Month, the LGBTQ streaming platform shares a block short films including the acclaimed Light in Dark Places (trailer below). “A mother makes a shocking discovery when she’s left to pack up her daughter’s house after a tragic car accident.”

The Advocate: Two more Black transgender women have died by violence in the past couple of weeks, one in Louisiana and one in Florida.

New York Times: President Biden will travel to Milwaukee on Tuesday to participate in a CNN town hall event to be moderated by Anderson Cooper, his first substantive trip outside of Washington since assuming office.

CNN: Donald Trump was very unhappy with the opening argument made by his lawyer, Bruce Castor, on the Senate floor this afternoon. Trump was almost screaming as Castor made meandering arguments that struggled to get at the heart of his defense team’s argument, which is supposed to be over the constitutionality of holding a trial for a president no longer in office.

Biden Tops Trump In Dueling Town Hall Ratings

L-R Former Vice President Joe Biden, Donald Trump

It was a tale of two Town Halls last night as Donald Trump and Joe Biden took questions in separate events from likely voters.

As many on social media noted, the tone and tenor of the events couldn’t have been more different.

Donald Trump was being combative with his host, NBC News’s Savannah Guthrie when she would ask follow-up questions to many of his vague responses.

Over on ABC, Biden was calm and collected as he looked each person in the eye as he answered their questions. At one point, his answer was so lengthy and detailed, host George Stephanopoulos interrupted to ask the questioner if they’d gotten the response they needed.

Another clear difference between the two events was Trump’s town hall was only an hour (low-energy) and Biden’s was 90 minutes. But even after those 90 minutes, Biden stayed in the TV studio and answered follow-up questions from folks in the venue.

The Biden town hall marked one of the few times LGBTQ issues came up in a broadcast election event as Joe Biden clearly and with no equivocation vowed to protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans.

When Mieke Haeck, a mother of two including an 8-year-old transgender daughter, asked how he would reverse Trump’s anti-LGBTQ actions,

“The Trump administration has attacked the rights of transgender people,” asked Haeck, “banning them from military service, weakening non-discrimination protections, and even removing the word ‘transgender from some government websites. How will you, as president, reverse this dangerous and discriminatory agenda and ensure that the lives and rights of LGBTQ people are protected under U.S. law?”

Biden was direct and unwavering in his response.

“I will flat-out just change the law,” he told Haeck, adding that he would reverse Trump’s anti-LGBTQ executive orders.

Biden also recounted an anecdote from his youth when he and his father witnessed two men sharing a kiss in public. Upon seeing the kiss, Biden turned to his father who said simply, “Joey, it’s simple. They love each other.”

Circling back around to the beginning of the issue, Biden was clear: “There should be zero discrimination.”

Biden also took a question from a gentleman who asked Biden what he would say to LGBTQ Americans and others who are worried about erosions of their rights. Biden said, “I think there’s great reason to be concerned for the LGBTQ community, something I fought very hard for.”

At the Trump Town Hall, things were a little bit more contentious. When Savannah Guthrie asked Trump about retweeting misinformation and conspiracy theories, he blew the question off.

One such retweet contained a conspiracy theory that Biden and President Barack Obama orchestrated a cover-up regarding Navy SEAL Team Six faking the death of terrorist Osama bin Laden.

“That was a retweet,” defended Trump. “That was an opinion of somebody and that was a retweet. I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves. I don’t take a position.”

“You’re the president,” Guthrie responded. “You’re not someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.”

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg saw his tweet go viral (shared over 47K times, Liked over 350K times) when he shared, “Just imagine turning on the TV, seeing your president, and feeling your blood pressure go down instead of up.”

And Donald Trump’s own niece, Mary Trump, scored with a single word tweet when someone playfully took issue with Savannah Guthrie referring to Trump as “someone’s crazy uncle.” #Actually

By the way, Biden’s town hall on ABC News reportedly drew 2.3 million more viewers than the Trump town hall on NBC News. Variety reports Biden drew 12.7 million total viewers on the Disney-owned network, while Trump drew 10.4 million in the same 9-10 p.m. time slot on NBC.

More reactions from Twitter about the dueling Town Hall events below.

Dueling Town Halls Replace Presidential Debate

L-R Donald Trump, Joe Biden

It’ll be dueling town hall events on Thursday instead of a debate.

After refusing to participate in the scheduled second presidential debate of the 2020 cycle, Donald Trump has agreed to take part in an NBC News town hall event on Thursday at the same time former Vice President Joe Biden will take questions in an ABC News town hall to be hosted by George Stephanopoulos.

From NBC News:

The town hall, moderated by “TODAY” anchor Savannah Guthrie, will take place on the same evening — and at the same time — that Joe Biden is doing his own town hall event in Philadelphia on ABC News at 8 p.m. ET.

Trump and Biden were supposed to hold their second debate on Thursday night, but Trump pulled out after organizers announced it was going to be conducted virtually. The last presidential debate is scheduled for next Thursday, Oct. 22.

During the one-hour town hall with Trump on Thursday, Guthrie will moderate a conversation between Trump and a group of Florida voters.

I know Trump loves to hear about his ratings. Because his NBC News town hall will be simulcast on CNBC and MSNBC, I’ll go ahead and predict he’ll probably get more viewers given the wider reach of three networks.

But in the end, I doubt these events will change any voter’s mind.

Biden Will Attend Town Hall Event In Miami Hosted By NBC News

Former Vice President Joe Biden (image via campaign)

Deadline reports that former Vice President Joe Biden will participate in a Town Hall event hosted by NBC News’s Lester Holt on October 5 in Miami, Florida.

The event was announced following last night’s wild debate between Biden and Donald Trump.

Biden previously participated in a similar event earlier this month in Scranton, Pennsylvania, hosted by CNN. Socially distanced attendees took part from the safety of their cars.

NBC News has also extended an invitation to Trump to do a similar event. Trump took part in an ABC News Town Hall in September.

Candidates and their campaigns favor such events because taking questions from ‘everyday people’ can offer an appealing connection to voters.

One Night, Five Democrats, Five Town Halls

CNN held five back-to-back town hall events with five Democratic presidential contenders last night – Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Good stuff from everyone, they all had strong moments at times.

A few takeaways:

While I appreciate the moderate lane Klobuchar has staked out for herself, it came across a bit timid and noncommittal in some of her answers. I’ll admit that a lot of issues can’t be truly addressed in a couple of minutes on a stage, but she was notably more cautious than her fellow candidates.

I really like Kamala Harris. She’s clear about what she stands for, and she has a strong decisive energy about her.

When asked about impeachment proceedings for Donald Trump, she said Congress should take steps towards impeachment but added Democrats must be “realistic about what might be the end result.”

One of Harris’ best moments came when she was asked about the issue of gun violence in the country and what she would do about it. Here’s what she said:

I have to say I almost became emotional as Mayor Pete took to the stage. As a gay man, to see this 37-year-old mayor take to the stage as a real player and handle himself so well was uplifting and energizing.

Mayor Pete had one of the biggest moments of the night when he was asked about the back and forth he’s had with Vice President Pence, and a comment made by Trump ally and homocon Richard Grennell, the current ambassador to Germany.

Buttigieg’s response: “I’m not a master fisherman, but I know bait when I see and I’m not going to take it.” And the crowd went wild.

A new talking point emerged throughout the night after Sen. Sanders said even the Boston bomber deserved to be able to vote. Sen. Harris concurred saying, “We should have that conversation.”

But Buttigieg was clear and concise in his opinion that prisoners should not be allowed to vote. “While incarcerated? No, I don’t think so,” the South Bend mayor said.

CNN has recapped each of the candidate’s hour-long turns onstage.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Kamala Harris

Mayor Pete Buttigieg

A few more moments from the night:

Highlights: Students, Parents & Teachers Face Off With Marco Rubio And NRA At Gun Violence Town Hall

Fred Guttenberg faces off with Sen. Marco Rubio

Last night’s Town Hall hosted by CNN was a rough ride for Sen. Marco Rubio and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch as they took questions from parents and students regarding the tragic gun massacre that took place last week in Parkland, Florida.

You can listen to and read a full transcript of the Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper here.

Just a few highlights:

• Fred Guttenberg, father of Jaime Guttenberg who was killed in the shooting, told Rubio “your comments this week and those of our president have been pathetically weak.”

“Look at me and tell me. Guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in this school this week,” Guttenberg said. “And look at me and tell me you accept it and you will work with us to do something about guns.”

Rubio later tweeted, “Banning all semi-auto weapons may have been popular with the audience at #CNNTownHall, but it is a position well outside the mainstream.”

• Student Cameron Kasky asked Rubio to say he wouldn’t take more money from the NRA. Rubio has received over $3.3 million from the NRA over the course of his political career.

“Can you tell me you won’t take a single donation from the NRA?” Kasky said. “In the name of the 17 people who died, you can’t ask the NRA to keep their money?” Rubio did not answer, saying only “people buy into my agenda.”

• Student Ryan Deitsch asked Rubio why it’s fallen to students and young people to take up the cause of gun violence after our lawmakers have dodged the issue for so long.

“We would like to know why do we have to be the ones to do this?” Deitsch asked. “Why do we have to speak out to the [state] Capitol? Why do we have to march on Washington, just to save innocent lives?”

• And the insanely calm and confident Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma González asked NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch if the NRA supports making it harder to obtain semiautomatic and fully automatic weapons.

“Dana Loesch, I want you to know that we will support your two children in a way that you will not,” said Gonzalez. “The shooter at our school obtained weapons that he used on us legally. Do you think that it should be harder to obtain these semiautomatic and the modifications for these weapons that make them fully automatic like bump stocks?”