The two candidates also clashed over a number of issues, from race relations to minimum wage to climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, all while moderator Kristen Welker proceeded over a largely orderly affair between the bitter rivals.
The Hunter Biden debate exchange followed the recent news reports of past communications between Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and his business partners that have raised questions about what Joe Biden knew about these foreign business dealings. Biden’s campaign has denied involvement or making money off these dealings, but the president pressed his rival over the reports during the debate.
“All of the emails … the horrible emails of the kind of money that you were raking in, you and your family. And Joe, you were vice president when some of this was happening. And it should’ve never happened,” Trump said. “I think you owe an explanation to the American people.”
Biden responded: “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life.” Turning to attack Trump, Biden added: “We learned this president paid 50 times the tax in China, has a secret bank account with China. Does business in China.”
“I have released all of my tax returns … 22 years of my tax returns,” Biden said. “You have not released a single solitary year of your tax returns … what are you hiding?”
Trump said that he would release his tax returns “as soon as I can” — a claim the president has been making without follow-up for years. He further claimed to have “pre-paid” his taxes.
About an hour before the debate, Tony Bobulinski, an old business partner of Hunter Biden delivered an in-person statement claiming he’d worked with the elder Biden. Biden repeatedly in the past denied being involved in the younger Biden’s business dealings and continued Thursday to deny it through a statement by campaign spokesman Andrew Bates.
Trump invited Bobulinski to be his special guest at the Thursday debate.
“As Chris Wallace said on the air about this very smear, ‘Vice President Biden has actually released his tax returns – unlike President Trump – and there is no indication he ever got any money from anybody in these business deals,'” Bates said. “Joe Biden has never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever. He has never held stock in any such business arrangements nor has any family member or any other person ever held stock for him.”
The candidates returned to what was the biggest story of the day later in the debate, with Biden calling the accusations against him “a bunch of garbage” and Trump replying, “You mean the laptop is now another Russia, Russia, Russia hoax?”
Also during the debate, the candidates clashed over coronavirus as candidates ridiculed the other’s approaches to the pandemic.