Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during their second presidential debate, at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

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A Tense, Heated Debate

The main presidential candidates exchange sharp words in their second debate.

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton faced off last night in what many experts are calling one of the most tense presidential debates in modern American history.

The two candidates refused to shake hands when they first took the stage at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. They then spent much of the next 90 minutes attacking the other’s judgment and character.

The debate was in a town-hall format. Undecided voters onstage asked questions of both candidates. The moderators, Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC News, added some questions of their own. They covered issues such as the rising cost of health care and the war in Syria. The two candidates were harshly critical of one another as they outlined their very different views on the best direction for the United States to take.


The debate came in the middle of a difficult week for Trump’s campaign. Last Friday, a video recording of Trump from 11 years ago was released. On the video, he makes many highly offensive remarks about women. Within two days of the video’s release, more than 30 Republican leaders announced they would no longer support Trump. That includes Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican candidate for president in the 2008 election.

During the debate, Trump apologized for the remarks, saying, “I'm not proud of it. I apologize to my family. I apologize to the American people.”

In her reply, Clinton argued that the video shows Trump’s true feelings about women. “I think it's clear to anyone who heard [the video] that it represents exactly who he is,” she said.


Throughout the debate, Trump repeatedly questioned Clinton’s character too. He accused her of breaking the law in her handling of top-secret emails while she served as secretary of state. During that time, Clinton used a private email account instead of one set up by the State Department. Some of the emails she sent and received contained classified, or secret, information, which could have been stolen by computer hackers. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated Clinton’s emails earlier in the year. Though the FBI determined that Clinton had broken no laws, it still called her behavior “extremely careless.”

Trump lashed out at Clinton over the emails, saying, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

Clinton responded with an apology. “I take responsibility for using a personal email account,” she said. “Obviously, if I were to do it over again, I would not. I'm not making any excuses. It was a mistake. And I am very sorry about that.”


Surprisingly, the debate ended on a more positive note. An audience member asked each candidate to name one positive thing about each other.

“I respect his children,” Clinton said. “His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald.”

Trump replied, “I will say this about Hillary. She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up.... She is a fighter.” And as the debate ended, the two candidates shook hands, which they had refused to do earlier in the night.

It was a brief moment of calm in what had been a tense debate. The candidates will meet once again in their third and final debate on October 19. It will be the final chance for the candidates to speak directly to voters—and each other—before Election Day, November 8.