Arab News post-debate panelists: No clear winner between Biden and Trump

The Arab News panelists agreed the debate had failed to tackle core issues for voters. (Sceengrab)
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Updated 07 October 2020

Arab News post-debate panelists: No clear winner between Biden and Trump

  • Arab News correspondents Ray Hanania and Ephrem Kossaify, joined by veteran Arab American journalists Dalia Al-Aqidi and Warren David


CHICAGO: An Arab News panel of four distinguished Arab-American journalists and writers concluded Tuesday evening that there was “no clear winner” in the first of three debates between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Trump and Biden took the stage in a 90-minute sparring match held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and moderated by “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace.
Arab News panelists included Dalia Al-Aqidi, a former congressional candidate in Minnesota and award-winning international journalist and commentator covering foreign affairs; and Warren David, president of, a networking website that disseminates events, news, music and culture.



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The discussion was moderated by Arab News New York correspondent Ephrem Kossaify, who has covered American elections since 2004, interviewing former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.
It was emceed by Ray Hanania, a veteran Chicago City Hall political writer who is Arab News’s US special correspondent and columnist.
“I don’t think anybody won,” Al-Aqidi said. “I don’t think this debate made any impact on undecided voters … It wasn’t a debate. It was boring at one point. So I don’t think there was a winner.”
David said the president was “bullying” during the debate. “Trump didn’t follow the rules of the presidential debate, and I think Biden somehow won because Trump was out of control,” David added.
Kossaify said: “We’ve never seen a debate like this one. It was more of a brawl than a debate. There was hope that somehow we’d rise above the chaos tonight, but I don’t think we really did. It was very chaotic throughout.”
Hanania noted that Biden called Trump many names, including “liar”, “clown” and “racist,” while the president spent much time interrupting Biden as he responded to questions, to the point where Wallace reprimanded Trump for violating the rules that were agreed upon by his campaign not to interrupt.
“But Biden did something no one expected. He didn’t stumble … They brought up he was too old to be president, and did he have the mental capacity. He proved he does,” Hanania said.
“Trump on the other hand, I don’t think he was mean as many people thought he’d be, other than using the term ‘Pocahontas’ one time in the beginning. He didn’t call anyone fat. He didn’t insult women. He didn’t insult Biden.”
All agreed that no clear, single issue stood out from either candidate. “It was the same thing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,” David said.
“I was really disappointed in Wallace. He really came after the president several times, and Biden but more after Trump.”
Panelists agreed that the president interrupted Biden frequently, earning reprimands from Wallace.
What was most memorable of the 90-minute debate? “Biden managed to stay on stage for 96 minutes. The bar is so low for Biden, it was an achievement for him to stay straight for 96 minutes,” Al-Aqidi said.
“I think the biggest failure was Wallace. We didn’t hear clear questions … and he didn’t let us hear the answers. There were very important issues that needed to be discussed, but he couldn’t get a clear answer from both.”
The debate was broken up into short two-minute statements from each candidate on a topic, followed by several minutes of open debate, but it appeared chaotic at times.
The first question was on the appointment of a Supreme Court justice to succeeded Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.
Other topics included the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, what Wallace described as “race and violence in American cities,” and the integrity of the elections.
“Every issue discussed tonight is very crucial to what’s happening tonight — the Supreme Court nomination to fill the gap of the late Judge Ginsburg and what that would entail; in terms of health care that affects every American; abortion rights; women rights. Everything is in the balance,” said Kossaify.
David said: “This is the most important election in this country … 2020 has had so many issues, starting with COVID-19 and civil rights issues, and starting with impeachment at the beginning of the year … health care, the divisiveness — all of that and the Supreme Court, Roe vs Wade, all these big issues … We can’t afford to have a debate like this because our lives are on the line.”

Hezbollah, Amal loyalists attack journalists covering fire

Updated 26 November 2020

Hezbollah, Amal loyalists attack journalists covering fire

  • Sawt Beirut International founder says they will not be deterred from carrying out their work
  • Sawt Beirut International journalists were beaten as they attempted to flee down the stairs, Arab News was told, until they reached the street, where the Lebanese army interfered

LONDON: Sawt Beirut International reporter Rabih Chantaf and cameraman Mahmoud Al-Sayyed were attacked and harassed by Hezbollah and Amal party loyalists on Tuesday while covering a fire in Beirut.

“Sawt Beirut International will be taking additional steps in the coming period to confirm that it will not give up in the face of this terrorist attack carried out by Hezbollah,” Sawt Beirut International founder Jerry Maher told Arab News.

“We are convinced that Hezbollah gave the order to the groups that attacked our crew and this operation was organised.”

In a video depicting the incident, Chantaf is seen reporting from the 11th floor apartment in the Zouqaq Al-Blat district in Beirut where the fire occurred.

A group of firemen can be seen attending to the damage and, soon after, plain-clothed men approached the reporter and cameraman ordering them to stop filming. Voices were later heard struggling until the filming abruptly ended.

Chantaf and Al-Sayyed were beaten as they attempted to flee down the stairs, Arab News was told, until they reached the street, where the Lebanese army interfered.

“One of those terrorists even warned a soldier telling him ‘move away or we will shoot you.’ There was a very high level of incitement,” Maher, who is also the media adviser to Bahaa Hariri, the brother of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.

“This incident pushes us to carry on with this confrontation. We will not back down, we will not give up and we will not allow this corrupt system and those who protect it using illegitimate weapons, namely Hezbollah, to endanger the future of Lebanon and of the Lebanese people through such acts that undermine the security of the Lebanese people,” Maher said.

In a tweet Bahaa later condemning “the cowardly attack on the Sawt Beirut International team in Beirut by supporters of a duo who do not believe in freedom of the press.”

The duo refers to Hezbollah and Amal, the predominantly Shia political parties in the country.

This is not the first time Hezbollah and its allies have harassed journalists in Lebanon. Last month, journalist Luna Safwan was a victim of an online abuse campaign after a tweet she posted criticizing Hezbollah was carried by an Israeli news channel and she was accused of cooperating with Israel.

Lebanon is currently witnessing several crises. Even before the August port explosion that left at least 200 dead, the country was facing an unprecedented economic and financial slump, which the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated.

Saad Hariri was asked to form a government after his predecessor PM Hassan Diab resigned following the explosions, and prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib gave up after struggling to form a cabinet on his terms.