Biden’s first “virtual town hall” was marred by technical difficulties Friday evening, underscoring the difficulties candidates will face as the coronavirus pandemic upends campaign activities and even the election schedule.
Biden’s opening remarks were garbled, often with only snippets — “coronavirus,” “those who need it,” “economic response” — coming through as people tuned in via phone or online.
“I’ll listen to the experts and their advice,” Biden said in a moment of relative audio clarity as he described how he would confront the threat, promising to “build American leadership and rally the world, as we did in our administration.”
The first questioner said only, “Mr. Biden’s speech was garbled the entire time,” to which a moderator responded, “We appreciate you bearing with our technical difficulties.”
The next questioner appeared to have dropped from the forum.
Eventually, another person asked what Biden was going to do to appeal to Sanders supporters.
“Am I live? Can I respond?” Biden asked.
Amid some garbled audio, he said, “First of all, Bernie and I are friends.” He said the two of them would work together, whichever one of them ends up being the nominee. He also stressed that there were a range of issues on which they agree.
Biden and Sanders have had to cancel and modify primary-season activities as officials take increasingly drastic measures against the coronavirus. Their one-on-one debate Sunday will be held without a live audience.
Biden and Sanders have both laid out plans to combat the virus, seeking to draw a contrast with Trump’s address to the nation Wednesday night. Sanders said the unfolding crisis was “on the scale of a major war,” while Biden earlier urged “radical changes in our personal behaviors.”
Friday’s Biden event got underway at 7:20 p.m. Eastern time after 20 minutes of throat-clearing, brief snippets of test video and cutaways to an “Illinois for Biden” graphic. An event notification suggested the town hall would last two hours, but it ended at about 7:45 p.m.
Representatives for Biden did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the event Friday night. But in an email to reporters who covered the town hall, the campaign apologized for the technical glitches and said a full recording would be posted online as soon as possible.
The campaign distributed Biden’s prepared remarks for the town hall, which were similar to the ones he delivered on Thursday in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The candidate also praised the legislation unveiled Friday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“All Americans should be grateful for the Speaker’s leadership and for [Senate] Minority Leader [Charles E.] Schumer’s leadership at this critical moment,” he said. “These are important first steps, but we have much more to do — and a long road ahead.”