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Roundtable: The Ugly First Debate

 October 2, 2020 at 2:04 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Chaotic embarrassing, destructive to democracy. That's how many are describing the first Trump Biden debate and anything be done to make the next more presidential it's almost time to cast your ballot. We'll hear from those putting together this year's KPBS voter guide to keep you informed. And we check in on the race to replace San Diego's longest serving Congresswoman I'm. Mark Sauer. The KPBS round table starts. Now. Speaker 2: 00:31 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 00:35 Welcome to our discussion to the week. Stop stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the remote KPBS round table today. All from KPBS news, investigative reporter Amica Sharma what producer Alexander Wynn and reporter Matt Hoffman. The nation in the world have been stunned by news that president Trump has wife and at least one top aid have tested positive for the Corona virus. His campaign is reeling and the election between Trump and Joe Biden is completely reset, but in ways that are unclear for now, joining me to discuss this hard turn of events is KPBS investigative reporter Amica Sharma. Amantha welcome back to the round table. Speaker 3: 01:12 Thank you, Mike. It's good to be here. Speaker 1: 01:14 Well, it's been an avalanche of news the past couple of weeks, but stunning doesn't begin to cover the revelation that Donald Trump and his wife had tested positive for the Corona virus. What's your immediate reaction to this news? Speaker 3: 01:26 You know, Mark, you and I spoke last night and I was shocked. And then I wondered why I was shocked because as you and I know is everyone knows this is a president who has undercut the need to wear masks. He's rarely worn one in public. Uh, he's held massive political rallies. He's held indoor fundraisers. And when you see footage of those events, people are not socially distancing. A lot of people are not wearing masks. So I think that it was a matter of time before the president got COVID-19 Speaker 1: 02:00 Since so much of the news discussion today is by necessity speculation. I want to focus on an exchange during Tuesday's debate moderator, Chris Wallace noted Trump's months long distain for masks. And he asks, are you questioning the efficacy of masks? Tell us about the president's response. Speaker 3: 02:18 Well, I think he was ambiguous as he has been since the pandemic hit the United States. He again said that, look, I wear masks when I need to, but he was so late to the party on that is you recall it took him months to agree to wear a mask in public. And then he turned to Joe Biden and, and, and express scorn and openly mocked. The former vice president for wearing a mask consistently when out in public, he said, you know, when I look at Joe Biden, um, he, he could be 200 feet away from people and still show up with biggest mask I've ever seen. Speaker 1: 03:01 Now, Joe Biden for his party, uh, often had trouble getting a word in as Trump interrupted constantly during that debate. But he came back with, what's been viewed as a strong response. What did Biden say about Trump's failed leadership on COVID-19? Speaker 3: 03:14 I didn't hit Trump hard with the COVID case numbers. He pointed out that that 40,000 people a day in the United States are contracting COVID-19 and he pointed out that between 750 and a thousand people are still dying each day. And then Biden used Trump's infamous words about the COVID cases and the death rates. If you recall, Trump has said it is what it is and buy it and turn to him and said, it is what it is because you are who you are. Speaker 1: 03:53 Yeah, that was a pretty powerful moment and would have stood out. But as we were talking before, all this news hit, uh, this, this debate was just a cacophony and unwatchable in the, in the word, in the view of many people. Now, Amit, that Trump responded that he's done a great job responding to the pandemic. And he claimed based on who knows what that millions would have died, had Biden been president. How do you think that exchange went for Trump at the time? Speaker 3: 04:18 I think it went well for the precedent, because it is so clear that this virus has turned everyone's life upside down. Um, you know, kids aren't in school, young people are distanced learning in college. Uh, people are working from home. The unemployment rate is sky high. Tens of millions of people are out of work. So when you combine all of that with the daily death toll and the number of lives lost already more than 200, 6,000 people have died, none of this looks good for Trump. None of this works well for Trump. Speaker 1: 05:00 And let's talk for a moment about events on Thursday, just before Trump confirmed that he and his wife had tested positive for the virus. According to the Washington post. Trump learned by afternoon that that a top aide hope Hicks had tested positive for the virus. And he was in close quarters with OPEX for days during debate prep and travel this week. Walk us through what Trump did after learning about his own exposure. Speaker 3: 05:24 Well, Trump and his advisors, his staff flew to a fundraiser in New Jersey and they did not socially distance. So it is unclear if people may have contracted the virus from him, if that is the opposite of what doctors will say is required in these circumstances, if you know, you've been exposed to someone who's tested positive, you need to go into immediate quarantine. Speaker 1: 05:55 And what is Joe Biden's response been since hearing the news about the president and his wife testing positive. Speaker 3: 06:02 And he said he and his wife are praying for the president and Melania Trump. And he has said that they are wishing for the couple's speedy recovery. Speaker 1: 06:11 And we should note that a Biden announced he was going to get tested. And the news this morning was he did test negative. So we have that, uh, at least going forward, I imagine a ton of people surrounded, uh, surrounding, uh, uh, president Trump and in that West wing are going to get tested if they aren't tested already. Speaker 3: 06:29 Right. But, you know, Mark, there are reports this morning saying that it'd be the testing of the white house of staff is not what you would expect it to be. That, um, that not everyone who entered that building was tested every single day and that they were using a particular test that has a 30 to 50% error. Speaker 1: 06:51 Right? So we're going to get a lot of details going forward. A lot of stories on the specifics as we report this out this week now, Amelia, you and I have moderated several debates. In fact, you handle one involving vice presidential candidate, Kamala Harris held at KPBS during her successful 2016 run for the U S Senate. Let's look ahead. The second Trump Biden debate is scheduled and just two weeks supposed to be a town hall format. Do you think that's going to be canceled? Who knows? Right. Speaker 3: 07:18 You know, it is so hard to tell what's going to happen. I can't imagine that there would be a town hall format debate. I do think however, that it's possible that there could be a zoom debate, a virtual debate. Um, and, but then again, that depends on president Trump's condition. I mean, we're hearing today that he has mild symptoms. We don't know what the symptoms are. If they continue to be mild, uh, perhaps he could participate in a virtual debate if they worsen. We don't know, or if he recovers by that time, um, maybe there will still be a virtual debate or maybe there will be an in prison debate, but it's just, you know, within that two week window and doctors keep on saying, you've got to be in quarantine for 14 years. Speaker 1: 08:07 Well, and that raises a lot of issues about a trunk being forthright with the public in general, but specifically on his health, there was a notable news reporting about him being rushed over to Walter Reed hospital. Even though they have a very, a well-staffed clinic there at the white house that was back, uh, uh, late, uh, uh, last fall. Uh don't know why a lot of speculation on that. Can we really count on the news coming out of the white house on Trump's condition? Speaker 3: 08:34 Well, clarity communicating the president's health has been, um, a real shortcoming with this administration. You mentioned the Walter Reed visit last fall. Uh, the way that visit was portrayed to the public was that the president was just completing phase of his annual physical. But then I believe a reporter for the New York times in his book suggested that the president's staff had communicated with vice president Biden, or I'm sorry, with vice president, um, pens to be ready to assume powers temporarily in case the president had to go under for a procedure. And then of course, you know, um, we have heard these glowing reports about his health when it's clear that the president is obese and, um, his cholesterol medication has been doubled. So if there were ever a time for transparency for forthrightness about the health of the president of the United States, this would be it Speaker 1: 09:49 Well, plenty to come on this lots of news forthcoming today. And in the weeks ahead, I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter Amica Sharma, thanks to Martha. Thank you. The presidential race is the top of the ticket, but there's so much more on the ballot this year. And that's where the KPBS voter guide comes in. On Monday. We launch our online resource for state races, local campaigns, and ballot measures in an era marked by so-called fake news and misinformation. A straightforward in depth approach is more valuable than ever, and our guests played a role in making it all happen. Let's welcome. Alexander Wynn web producer for KPBS news to the round table. Hello Alex. Hi Mark. Well, let's start with Monday's rollout. When someone goes to, what are they going to find Speaker 4: 10:34 Under the lead story section? They will see a banner that promotes the voter guide coverage. Alternatively, they can actually go to our election section, which is Speaker 1: 10:46 Now the last time we did this was the March primary. What was the response from online users back then? And how did that inform the digital team's approach this time around? Speaker 4: 10:56 Well, we changed, uh, our vendor for the voter guide, um, in the March primary election. So we actually had no expectation from the readers at all, but we were very surprised. Like they seem to like our new style and, you know, the response has been positive. And I think what the readers get out of this is that it drowns out all the noise and they just get the facts and the information they needed. And what is really useful for the readers is the questions that the candidates answer from our questionnaires. And so they get some of that personalized information so they can see who is the better candidate for the office. And we brought that back with this time around and we build upon that and we actually made it a little bit better. We actually have some new features in the voter guide that I think the readers will really like. Speaker 1: 11:50 Right. And a big part of it is that participation from candidates was their participation level. This time around in the past. Not everybody wants to jump forward and get involved in that if you're running for office. Speaker 4: 12:00 Yeah. This time around, we've actually got a really great response. I think we only have about eight or so candidates who have not submitted their response. So pretty much all the candidates have participated. And I think they see the value in that and they see the value of being a part of KPPs a voter guide. Speaker 1: 12:17 And are there other features a user's going to find valuable, you'll be linking to and showcasing recent work by KPBS reporters, right? Speaker 4: 12:25 Correct. Um, this time around there is a new section called the election center. So, you know, in addition to all the research, then you can do on your ballot. You can actually see election news, check your registration to see if you register at the current address or, you know, you are registered correctly in your party. And then you can actually see election results once we have that year's results on the ballot. Speaker 1: 12:49 Well, we hope it's November 3rd. I could go on quite a while as we've talked about on KPBS. Speaker 4: 12:54 Oh yeah. When we will continue to get updates from the election center, you know, as soon as eight o'clock happens, there's the first batch of results can hopefully, you know, we will get at least some local offices decided within the week or within this couple of days Speaker 1: 13:09 Now politics of course, is a topic that people are passionate about, especially on line where they can voice opinions. What kind of demand are you seeing the selection cycle for this sort of content? Speaker 4: 13:19 You know what I see a lot of people really want this election coverage and what they really want is to drown out all the noise that they see from, you know, pundits on the cable news. And they just want to see, like, what are the candidates stand on these issues? What are the issues facing my community? And especially in very important, it's like, what is the issues affecting me? So in California, there's a lot of confusions regarding prop 15 and then also prop 22. Speaker 1: 13:50 Can you briefly tell us what those two are about Speaker 4: 13:53 Prop 15 is about raising the taxes on property taxes on businesses, and it could have an effect on prop overturning prop 13. That's what the opponents say and what people are really wanting to know is that, will that happen or is it just specifically on the businesses? So for right now, businesses are your taxes, same rate as a probably owners, you know, 1% increase each year. And as long as they own that business, it's taxed at the rate where they bought it from. So like someone who owns a building 50 years ago for $500,000, which is now worth, you know, $5 million, they still tax on the $500,000 originally bought on that building. Speaker 1: 14:34 Right. Slight increases barely over the years. Right? Correct. Speaker 4: 14:37 And then prop 22 is the, uh, is the Uber and Lyft, you know, issue where drivers are being classified as a independent contractor and under the law on AB five, they're supposed to be classified as employees. So Uber and Lyft is putting a lot of money into this issue to try to overturn that. Speaker 1: 14:57 So lots of interest in those that can certainly imagine though, a big theme for online political content, going back to 2016, at least as a trend of misinformation, broadly speaking, how big a problem is that? And do you have tips on how to identify non-credible sources? And I should say that we of course pride ourselves at KPBS as being a reliable source. And I get that a lot in the community. You probably do too, where people say, Oh, you're with KPBS. Yeah. We love you. And, and we rely on you and that's so one of the big pluses we have. Speaker 4: 15:27 Yeah. So a lot of people trust public media. So like, you know, that is one credible source. And broadly speaking, I see this as a bigger problem now than it is in 2016, because we are now more in our bubble than ever before, especially with this pandemic, not a lot of people are socializing or going out in the community. So all they see is the online content and the news media from, you know, cable news. So the big issue is that if you see a story that affects you emotionally, like you get angry about it or something like that, that's usually a big tip off that it is something, a misinformation campaign because what Facebook has taught us and what the, you know, trolls on the internet have shown us is that they go after your emotion. So you stories you see like, so and so said this and it make you angry against that person or so, and so voted against this, or they say that that is a big red flag for misinformation. And if you want to find out that credible sources check their about page, if you go to our site that says, you know, and you look in their about page and they really don't say anything substantial about who they are and what they do and how they collect information. That's also a big red flag Speaker 1: 16:51 That was not just the election 2020s news cycles have been relentless between COVID-19 and racial justice. How's that translated into the surging audience for Yeah, Speaker 4: 17:01 No, we actually have seen our audience grown, you know, 200, 300% since the pandemic started. And also since the racial inequity and racial justice campaign with black lives matters being around. And what it shows is that audience turn to trusted news source when news happen. Like they want to get the news and they just want to know exactly what's going on without all the spin. And, you know, we've been a bit fed from that because of the great well from the audience that we've garnered over the year, you know, we're a trusted news source. We're in the community. We report directly to the community and it shows during the protest in may, that when we were reporting on this and we started covering, you know, 24 seven almost on our website, it shows the, the audience that we are there. And we are there to, you know, really report on the news and shows what's going on in the community. Speaker 1: 17:59 And finally, uh, remind us again, how you can get the KPBS voter guide. And when it's going to debut Speaker 4: 18:05 Latest debuting on Monday, October 5th, which is when you know, mail in ballots and assemble ballads will be mailed out to registered voters. And you can go to our website, and also Speaker 1: 18:21 I been speaking with Alexander when web producer for KPBS news. Thanks Alex. Thank you. One of San Diego's down ballot races will bring new representation for the first time. In 20 years, Congresswoman Susan Davis is retiring those competing to replace her or both Democrats. The current city council president, and a former Obama state department worker backed by one of San Diego's richest families, KPBS reporter, Matt Hoffman will be covering this race down the stretch. And Matt, welcome back to the round table. It's good to be here. Mark. The 53rd district is reliably blue. I happened to be sitting in the middle of it, and that's why we have two Democrats in the general election Georgette Gomez and Sarah Jacobs, remind us which parts of San Diego, this district covers. Speaker 5: 19:05 Yeah, it really touches on a number of cities. So we're talking about sections of the city of San Diego, uh, El Cahone Lamesa lemon Grove, even parts of Chula Vista. Now, as far as voting breakdown goes, you're right. There is a lot of blue there. Uh, Dems have a two to one registration advantage over Republicans. So like you said, it's really no surprise that we're seeing two Dems in the general here I'm in political scientists say, look, this is a very safe democratic seat and whoever wins, this could be holding it for a while. Speaker 1: 19:29 Yeah. If I was a betting man, I would bet on the Democrat in this race. So you're working on a feature story on the candidates that airs next week and KPBS. What did you hope to learn from them as we enter the final weeks? Speaker 5: 19:40 I had a chance to talk to both of these candidates during the primary. I mean, one big thing. If you think back Mark during the March primary, uh, there was no coronavirus restrictions, no coronavirus, big lockdowns happening. So the way they campaigned, uh, back in the primary was totally different than the way that they're campaigning now. I mean, you talk to like Sarah Jacobs, he says, you know, she misses that, that face to face contact, being able to see voters in person in Georgia, you know, saying really they're stepping up the phone banks here. I'm also intrigued to hear, you know, as it relates to coronavirus, you know, the pain that people have been going through that only, you know, business owners, but people, when we talking about missing their rent payments, uh, being laid off of their jobs. So coronavirus relief and what, what has been working, what's not working what all they would do. Speaker 5: 20:19 Um, and you know, both candidates saying that, you know, the cares act, it was good that Congress got that passed and we got that money out, uh, that PPP money, uh, that they believe more needs to be done. And really both candidates saying that they think that coronavirus and relief will be, uh, dominating sort of the, the tenure of whoever wins the seat. Uh, for the next two years, they think that a lot of issues are going to be centered on relief. But also we asked them about a lot of things, you know, as relates to climate change, the governor's new order for our all cars by 2035 to be zero emissions. If they're new, you know, both candidates saying that, uh, they believe that that's something that has to be doable and that the federal government should be stepping in to help. Speaker 1: 20:53 All right, let's drill down a little bit on each of these candidates focus on Sarah Jacobs. First, she worked in the Obama state department, part of the Jacobs family of Qualcomm fame. Obviously we've seen a lot of ads from her money. Isn't a problem for her in this race, but she lost in the 2018 primary and the 49th congressional district. What does she want to try here in the 53rd? Yeah. Speaker 5: 21:12 You know, she dug herself a practical progressive, um, and you know, she says basically community leaders have been asking her to run, uh, following the loss that you mentioned in the 49th, uh, sort of knowing her political ambitions. Um, and look, she just says, you know, we're losing 20 years of leadership with Susan Davis, uh, retiring. And she believes that her experience, you know, centered around the federal government will put her over the top of this Speaker 1: 21:34 And her opponent, as we say, is San Diego city council, president Georgette Gomez. It's now how is Gomez balancing her duties at city hall with trying to win this seat? Speaker 5: 21:43 You know, you're basically seeing happen in real time. I mean, she's at the city council meetings, whether it's virtually or in person I'm also doing as well as Sarah Jacobs too. I should say doing a lot of these, you know, forums and these debates as we get up to the elections, they are a few of them, uh, just this week alone. And yeah, you know, you talked about, you know, her, her city experience and she thinks that that's, what's gonna put her over the top here is that she's someone who's been elected before. And she thinks that that experience, you know, working with people of the opposite party, we're talking about, you know, whether that's, uh, Republican members who are on the council or San Diego mayor, Kevin Faulkner the Republican mayor. She talked about working with him during the coronavirus, uh, working to set an eviction moratorium. So she believes that her time on the council really is going to prepare her for this time. Speaker 1: 22:23 Congress, do we have any recent polling in this race and any indication who might have an edge? Now, Speaker 5: 22:28 There was a survey USA poll from last week, only about 500 people were surveyed in that, but there was some big numbers coming out of that. A 38% of people who responded said that they would support Sarah Jacobs and 24% supporting Gomez. So double digit point lead there. But what's interesting that came out of that poll was 38% of those surveyed said that they're still undecided. Now, keep in mind this, this is a race that doesn't have a Republican on the ballot. You know, some people just look for the DS and the RS. Now they're going to be looking at these two Democrats here. And we're going to see as a selection goes on them trying to separate themselves on a lot of issues where, you know, they might be similar. They both say that they're progressive, but I think we'll start to see whether that's through advertisements or through mailers, them trying to separate themselves to show how they're doing Speaker 1: 23:09 For Democrats. And what about the outgoing Congresswoman Susan Davis, also a Democrat, of course. Has she made an endorsement or said much about the campaign? Speaker 5: 23:17 No, she has not made an endorsement. And that's something that we also didn't see in the primary when we had, you know, more than a dozen candidates vying for the seat. And basically she still says, you know, according to a spokesperson that she doesn't believe that members should have a hand in picking their successor. Now, like I was talking about in the primary, you talk to some political scientists, they say, well, yeah, it's because you don't want to pick somebody and get it wrong. I'm obviously now down with the two candidates here, uh, she still does not want to put down an endorsement and it looks like we probably won't see one, uh, come November, do you have a month left? Speaker 1: 23:46 We'll have to see on that one. Now Gomez, his decision to run for Congress means she's giving up her district nine seat on the San Diego council. And this week there was a big shakeup there. Uh, one of the candidates dropped out, right? Speaker 5: 23:57 Yeah. Kelvin Barrios, a Democrat too, worked for Georgia at Gomez, a former aid to Gomez after some revelations about his misuse of funds while serving as the treasurer for the San Diego County, young Democrats, he made the tough decision to suspend his campaign. Now, interestingly, he'll still be appearing on the ballot. So we'll have to see sort of what happens there. Um, but that's a very big announcement. You know, Gomez had endorsed him and she did pull her support after he learned that the district attorney's office was investigating a potential financial misuse. Um, and you know, she basically says, look, she holds herself to a high standard, expect others to do so too. And that's why she ended up pulling her support for her. Speaker 1: 24:35 So that's what Georgia, Georgia Gomez has said that much, at least about, uh, her former aide, Kelvin Barrios dropping out of this race here. Any idea if there'll be any blow back on her and her congressional, Speaker 5: 24:46 You know, it's really unclear at this point. I mean, if you look at the Sarah Jacobs camp, you know, haven't myself seen any sort of attacky kind of ads. We did see a version of one of those come out from the Georgia Gomez camp this week. And I mean, you know, we're not saying, obviously we don't know what they're with these candidates, internal polling says. Um, but you know, just talking to some political scientists, if you know, Jacob's really does have this sort of big lead here, um, that it really doesn't make sense for her. They say to, you know, get down and dirty, so to speak. So, uh, we might not see, you know, any sort of a, a tax, so to speak, um, as it relates to Kelvin Barrios, um, unless that, uh, that, that lead starts to shift. So Speaker 1: 25:21 Take the high road, plus there's a lot to cover in the final month of the election. We'll be looking for your stories. I've been speaking with Matt Hoffman reporter for KPBS news. Thanks Matt. Thanks Mark. That wraps up another edition to the round table. I'd like to thank my guests all today from KPBS news, investigative reporter Amica Sharma web producer, Alexander Wynn and reporter Matt Hoffman, and for a comprehensive look at the vital November 3rd election, check out the KPBS voting guide, which debuts this coming Monday, October 5th. I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for listening today and join us again next week. Speaker 5: 26:01 [inaudible].

The presidential debates get off to a chaotic start, what you need to know about the upcoming KPBS Voter Guide, and a look at the race to replace Rep. Susan Davis in Congress.