Presidential Debate: Joe Biden Handled Trump's Attack On His Son Like A Pro

joe biden policies election debate
credit: Evan El-Amin/

It’s an unspoken rule among parents: don’t go after each other’s kids. But Donald Trump has never been one to play nice.

During Sept. 29th’s presidential shitshow debate, Trump took every chance he could to hammer in his conspiracy theories about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and his ties to Ukraine. It’s been one of Trump’s major talking points, and also part of what led to his impeachment.

Biden went into the debate knowing Trump would bring this up, so he came prepared with facts and rebuttals. But what he likely wasn’t prepared for was Trump’s blatant assault on Hunter’s battle with substance abuse and addiction, at a time of rising addiction with more than 20 million Americans impacted.

During the debate, while Biden was honoring his deceased son Beau, Trump interrupted so that he could spread lies about Hunter. He said,

“I don’t know Beau. I know Hunter. Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out dishonorably discharged… for cocaine use. And he didn’t have a job until you became vice president.”

You heard that correctly: the President of the United States attacked Joe Biden’s son and his addiction, a disease that nearly 20 million Americans suffer from, as of 2017. But in trying to attack Hunter Biden, Trump also attacked the nearly 50% of Americans who have a family member or close friend who suffers from the illness.

joe biden hunter biden discharged from military
Biden with wife Jill and children Beau, Hunter, and Ashley

As a mom watching this go down, I could practically feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up and the instinct to pounce on Trump and claw at his eyes. But, Biden handled it like a pro, he pushed past that instinct and stayed on topic, fact-checking Trump along the way.

Over and over, Biden corrected Trump’s inaccurate claims with composure by simply responding, “That is not true.”

Eventually, the dad in Joe Biden came out, and he passionately (but still professionally) defended his son, saying,

“My son, like a lot of people at home, had a drug problem. He’s overtaking it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him, I’m proud of my son.”

This time, I had goosebumps. You could feel the power in Biden’s statement. And it worked because Trump did not bring up Hunter’s addiction again.

There is no denying that the first presidential debate was a total trainwreck. But, it is impressive that Biden didn’t take the bait more than he did. He did his best to stay on topic, spoke directly to the American people, and chose to honor the unspoken rule among parents — despite how easy it would have been to go after Trump’s children (like, really easy).

If nothing else, this debacle proved which candidate can handle themself under pressure, and which one thinks winning an argument is about who can yell the loudest.

You can watch the Sept. 29 debate here and read the transcript here. The next presidential debates are scheduled for Oct. 15 and Oct. 22, and the vice presidential debate will be on Oct. 7.


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Ashley Ziegler
Aside from being a writer, Ashley is a mom of two girls and a wife to a passionate public school administrator. When she does have free time (cue laughter from working moms everywhere) she loves going to hot yoga classes, watching anything on Netflix that isn't a cartoon, and weaving her way through every aisle of Target while listening to one of her favorite podcasts.