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    How the Internet Viewed the Presidential Town Halls

    To the delight of some and the consternation of others, Twitter went down briefly on Thursday evening in the United States and beyond.

    But for better or worse, the social media platform was (mostly) back online in time for the evening’s dueling town hall events featuring President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. — because where else can we try desperately to make a clever political joke before someone else does?

    On Thursday, the internet felt compelled to weigh in on the stark difference in tone between the two forums, Savannah Guthrie’s performance moderating the discussion with Mr. Trump on NBC, and other assorted Easter eggs that surfaced during all of the questions and answers.

    In case your Twitter account went dark on Thursday night — or if you blessedly didn’t have one to begin with — here’s a quick look at what the online world deemed important.

    NBC and ABC, the television networks broadcasting the town hall events, carried them both at 8 p.m. Eastern. So viewers were left with a choice: Watch one candidate exclusively, or flip back and forth?

    Competing hashtags emerged on Twitter, mostly along partisan lines. Some said they were dedicated to #WatchingTrump and others to #WatchingBiden.

    But among those who periodically switched between the two broadcasts, a consensus emerged: The difference in tone was jarring.

    Mr. Trump’s detractors found his loud voice, frequent interjections and rhetorical meandering to be overwhelming and incoherent.

    By contrast, Mr. Biden received strong reviews from some corners for showing empathy toward the voters asking him questions, engaging with them directly, and continuing to answer their questions even as the cameras cut away.

    But at times, Mr. Biden’s penchant for long-winded responses and deep policy dives left the voters who posed questions to him appearing perplexed, a point quickly noted by pundits.

    Mercedes Schlapp, a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, echoed a criticism from the right about Mr. Biden’s more mellow town hall, essentially arguing that the moderator, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and the voters posing the questions were being too soft on the former vice president.

    But her particular assertion that Mr. Biden’s town hall felt “like I am watching an episode of Mister Rodgers Neighborhood” was quickly turned into its own social media moment, as people pointed out that, in fact, most people liked Fred Rogers, and that Mr. Rogers was known for preaching kindness on his children’s show.

    Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

    There was also much discussion of Ms. Guthrie, who questioned the president bluntly on his coronavirus diagnosis, his views on white supremacists, the false QAnon conspiracy theory and his taxes.

    Some praised her for pressing Mr. Trump on issues he has tried to evade.

    Others criticized her style, sometimes in pejorative or misogynistic terms, as overly aggressive and partisan.

    At one point, Ms. Guthrie insisted that Mr. Trump explain why he had retweeted a conspiracy theory about Mr. Biden.

    “I don’t get that,” she said. “You’re the president. You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.”

    That comment was widely transcribed and reposted. And it did not take long for social media users to remember that Mr. Trump does have one highly visible niece.

    And finally, no roundup of the night’s internet moments would be complete if we did not include the video of one voter’s unprompted appraisal of the commander in chief.


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