By Alejandra Molina and Sonali Kohli 

In an Atlanta presidential debate where Black press were reportedly denied credentials to cover in person, an underwhelming show of whiteness took center stage Thursday night from both the candidates and the hosts. 

President Joe Biden appeared slow and checked-out, and stumbled early on, leading many — including Democrats — to wonder if Biden should step down. Meanwhile, former president Donald Trump’s xenophobic comments ran rampant as CNN moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash failed to fact-check or push back against a range of falsehoods about migrants, abortion, the Jan. 6 insurrection and other issues impacting communities of color.

As we wade through the disinformation that ran largely unchecked, we find ourselves turning to our own communities, to BIPOC media, who provide the framing and nuance we need to make sense of the night and its takeaways. 

One debate question that specifically addressed Black voters: The candidates were asked what they would say to Black voters who are disappointed by a lack of progress on issues like incarceration and unemployment. 

Trump said of Biden: “the millions of people that he’s allowed to come in through the border” are “taking Black jobs … and they’re taking Hispanic jobs.” Many turned to social media, asking for clarification on what constituted a “Black job.”

In response, Atlanta-based URL partner Capital B News published a piece to answer the question, “What Have Biden and Trump Done for Black People?”   which called out false information when Trump claimed that “we now have the largest deficit in the history of our country,” or when he said Biden called Black Americans “super predators.”

Capital B News pointed out that the largest deficit in U.S. history happened in fiscal year 2020, when Trump was president. The news outlet also noted a 1993 Senate floor speech where, according to PolitiFact, Biden spoke about doing something for young people who did not have structure or opportunities. He said the country needed to focus on them, because otherwise, a portion of them would “become the predators 15 years from now,” PolitiFact stated. It also clarified a claim by Biden that Black unemployment is at the lowest level it’s been in a long time.

“I still don’t understand the ‘black job’ comment, it would have been nice if there was a follow up to understand what he was trying to say,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar on X.

“What exactly are Black and Hispanic Jobs!?!” the NAACP also said on X

This lack of follow-up from the moderators allowed for hateful comments about migrants to go unchecked through the night, with Trump making falsehoods about Biden opening the border “and our country to people that are from prisons, people that are from mental institutions, insane asylum, terrorists.”

We found expertise and context on the topic of how both presidents treat migration from URL partner Documented, who called out both Trump’s lies and Biden’s “poor defense.”

Though Biden said in the debate, “We worked very hard to get a bipartisan agreement,” Documented pointed out that “Biden’s policies since 2022 have resembled Trump’s in some key ways.” From the story:

“Most recently, Biden’s executive order on asylum which went into effect earlier this month, follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, including Trump, who have used Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to execute restrictions on the entry of immigrants into the U.S.”

Journalists like Maria Hinojosa condemned the moderators for not challenging the candidates’ claims during the debate.

“This is what it looks like when journalists and the media enable authoritarianism. I’m so ashamed of our country at this moment. Being watched the world over and this is what we are delivering,” Hinojosa said on X

Janet Murguía, the president and CEO of UnidosUS, referred to the debate “as a missed opportunity for our community and our country.”

“Latinos were ill-served by the lack of a thoughtful discussion on the pocketbook issues we care about. Instead of solutions, we heard offensive disinformation and dangerous lies about immigrant communities,” Murguía said on X.

The Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) summed it up this way, in a statement against the news network: “CNN hosted a fear-mongering debate that allowed xenophobic lies to go unchecked and stoked the flames of dangerous misinformation. Instead of rising to the occasion, the network abdicated its journalistic duty and responsibility — and failed all Americans in the process.”

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