Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on stage at the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, 2016

By Chelsea Schilling and Garth Kant

In an event hailed as “the debate of the century,” presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton faced off Monday in a “fight night” that many predicted could change the direction of the race for the White House.

The event, held at Hofstra University just outside New York City, was expected to be the most-watched presidential debate in history, with viewership predicted to reach more than 100 million. The themes of the debate, chosen by moderator Lester Holt of NBC News, were “America’s Direction,” “Achieving Prosperity” and “Securing America.”

What do YOU think? Who won Monday’s big presidential debate? Sound off in today’s WND poll

After discussing the economy, Trump’s tax returns, race relations, Obama’s birth certificate and terrorism at home and abroad, the debate turned to the issue of whether Clinton has a “presidential look.”

“She doesn’t have the look. She doesn’t have the stamina,” Trump insisted. “I don’t believe she has the stamina.”

Clinton shot back: “Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a ceasefire, a release of dissidents and opening of new opportunities and nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.”

Trump replied: “Let me tell you, Hillary has experience, but it’s bad experience. And this country can’t afford to have another four years of that kind of experience.”

Watch the clip: 

Hillary responded: “One thing, Lester, he tried to switch from looks to stamina. But this is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs. And someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers.”

“I never said that,” Trump fired back.

“Who has said women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men,” Clinton continued.

“Didn’t say that,” Trump said.

“And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest,” Clinton charged. “He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them, and he called this woman Miss Piggy. Then he called her Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina.”

“Where did you find this?” Trump asked.

“Donald, she has a name,” Clinton replied. “Her name is Felicia Machado. … And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet she’s going to vote this November.”

Trump responded, “OK, good.”

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Economy, jobs and trade deals

The debate opened with a question on American jobs and “income inequality”: “Why are you a better choice than your opponent to create the kinds of jobs that will put more money into the pockets of Americans?”

“First, we have to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top,” Clinton said, promising jobs in infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, innovation, technology and small business. She also said the economy must be “fairer” with an increased minimum wage and equal pay.

“I want us to do more to support people who are struggling to balance family and work. … Let’s have paid family leave, earned sick days,” she said, promising free college and to “make the wealthy pay their fair share.”

Trump said: “Our jobs are fleeing the country. They’re going to Mexico. They’re going to many other countries.” He said jobs are going to China, which is devaluing its currency and “using our country as a piggy bank” to rebuild itself.

“As far as child care is concerned … I think Hillary and I agree on that. … But we have to stop our jobs from being stolen from us. We have to stop our companies from leaving the United States.”

Trump promised to reduce taxes from 35 to 15 percent for small companies.

“Companies will come, they will build, they’ll expand. New companies will start,” he said, adding that he would make smart, fair trade deals and implement a tax system that rewards work.

As for creating tax incentives, Trump said, “Politicians like Clinton should have been doing this for years.”

What do YOU think? Who won Monday’s big presidential debate? Sound off in today’s WND poll

As for how he would bring jobs back, Trump said: “The first thing to do is not let them leave. When they do, tax them when they try to sell goods in America.”

Trump told Clinton: “I will bring back jobs. You can’t bring back jobs.”

When Clinton claimed her husband, former President Bill Clinton, did “a good job in the 1990s,” Trump ripped the former president for approving the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Your husband signed NAFTA, which is one of the worst things that ever happened to the manufacturing industry,” Trump blasted. “NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe signed anywhere … And now you want to approve the Trans Pacific Partnership … and that will almost be as bad as NAFTA.”

Clinton claimed she was against NAFTA, but Trump fired back: “No, you called it the gold standard.”

She snapped: “Donald, I know you live in your own world. I didn’t like the way it turned out.”

Trump also accused Clinton of proposing to regulate businesses out of existence. Clinton vowed to raise taxes on the wealthy “because they have made all the gains in the economy.”

Trump also warned that America’s economy is “in a big, fat, ugly bubble.”

“When they (the Fed) raise interest rates, you’re going to see some very bad things happen,” he said.

The U.S. economy has consistently ranked as the top issue for Americans this election. According to the Pew Research Center, 84 percent of registered voters have said the economy is “very important” to their vote in November. That’s likely because the economy is getting worse, with the country on track for a GDP growth of only 1 percent in 2016. According to the Wall Street Journal, the anemic 1.2 percent growth rate in the second quarter of 2016 makes for an annual average rate of 2.1 percent growth since the end of the recession, making it the weakest recovery since the Great Depression.

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Trump’s tax returns for Clinton’s 33,000 emails

Asked if he will release his tax returns, Trump offered Clinton an exchange.

“I will release my tax returns, against my lawyers’ wishes, when she releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted. As soon as she releases them, I will release my tax returns,” Trump said. “Let her release her emails. Why did she delete 33,000 emails?”

Watch Trump’s comments: 

Clinton insisted, “There’s something he’s hiding.”

“I made a mistake using a private email,” she said, referencing her email scandal. “If I had to do it over again, I would obviously do it differently. I’m not going to make any excuses. I made a mistake.”

Trump called the whole email scandal “disgraceful.”

Clinton said she believes Trump won’t release his returns “because you haven’t paid any federal income taxes in so many years.” Clinton also accused Trump of stiffing contractors and ripped Trump for having “declared bankruptcy six times.”

“It’s all words. It’s all soundbites,” Trump said. “I built one of the greatest companies in the world.”

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Race relations and police shootings

The candidates were asked: “How do you heal the [racial] divide?”

Clinton said America must “restore trust between communities and the police.”

She said the police must receive the best training and use effective techniques that ensure they’re using force only when necessary.

“And we’ve got to get guns out of the hands of people who should not have them,” she said. “We have to tackle the plague of gun violence, which is a big contributor to the problems we’re seeing today.”

Trump said: “We need law and order. If we don’t have it, we’re not going to have a country.”

What do YOU think? Who won Monday’s big presidential debate? Sound off in today’s WND poll

Trump touted his endorsement by the Fraternal Order of Police.

“African-Americans and Hispanics in inner cities are in a living hell,” he added.

Trump noted almost 4,000 people have been killed in Chicago since Obama became president.

“Right now our police, in many cities, are afraid to do anything.”

He warned that America has “gangs roaming the streets” who have illegal guns, and many are illegal immigrants.

Watch the exchange on race relations: 

Clinton ripped Trump, claiming the GOP nominee paints a bleak picture of minority communities. She said Congress must ban anyone on the terror watch list from owning a firearm.

Holt asked Clinton, “Do you believe cops are implicitly biased against black people?”

She called for retraining police officers and responded, “Implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.”

Clinton falsely claimed murders are down in New York City. Homicides were up 6 percent in 2015.

Trump challenged her facts: “I’ve just been to the inner cities. You decided to stay home, and that’s OK.”

The big debate took place amid increasing racial tensions, as riots and protests have plagued Oklahoma and North Carolina in recent days after police shootings of black men. As WND reported, Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer Betty Shelby, who is white, was charged with first-degree manslaughter after she was captured on video shooting Terence Crutcher, a black man who was unarmed. Shelby said she felt “threatened” by Crutcher and believed he was on the drug PCP and had a gun.

In a separate incident in Charlotte, North Carolina, this month, 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, a black man, was shot and killed by a black police officer. Police say Scott had a gun and was ordered to drop it before he was shot. A photo taken by a witness appeared to show a gun on the ground near Scott’s body moments after the shooting. After Scott’s death, riots broke out in Charlotte for at least three nights, and a black protester was fatally shot by another black protester. Rioters also blocked traffic, set fires, looted a Walmart, chucked rocks and bottles at police officers, damaged police patrol cars and rampaged through downtown Charlotte.

Obama’s birth certificate

Clinton blasted Trump for the “racist” concerns he had about President Obama’s birth certificate.

But Trump said, “I was the one who got him to produce the birth certificate.”

He said the question was originally raised by Clinton’s own staffers and associates, including Sydney Blumenthal. He said Clinton was unsuccessful in getting a resolution.

Trump said he “did a great job and great service for the country” and didn’t need to explain any longer because he wanted to get on with fighting ISIS.

Clinton blasted: “Just listen to what you heard. He tried to put the whole racist, birther lie to bed. But it can’t be dismissed that easily. He has started his campaign activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen. There was absolutely no evidence for it, but he persisted. He persisted year after year, because some of his supporters, people that he was trying to bring into his fold, apparently believed it or wanted to believe it. …

“He has a long record of engaging in racist behavior. And the birther lie was a very hurtful one. You know, Barack Obama is a man of great dignity. And I could tell how much it bothered him and annoyed him that this was being touted and used against him.

“But I like to remember what Michelle Obama said in her amazing speech at our Democratic National Convention: When they go low, we go high. And Barack Obama went high, despite Donald Trump’s best efforts to bring him down.”

Watch the exchange: 

Trump blasted Clinton for acting “holier than thou” after she sent out images of Obama in Muslim garb.

“I got to watch in preparing for this some of your debates against Barack Obama. You treated him with terrible disrespect. And I watched the way you talk now about how lovely everything is and how wonderful you are. It doesn’t work that way. You were after him. … Your campaign sent out pictures of him in certain garb, very famous pictures. I don’t think you can deny that. Just last week your campaign manager said it was true. So when you try to act holier than thou, it really doesn’t work. It really doesn’t.”

What do YOU think? Who won Monday’s big presidential debate? Sound off in today’s WND poll

Terrorism, Muslims and Iraq war

The two candidates were asked how they would prevent homegrown terror attacks by American citizens.

“I think we’ve got to have an intelligent surge where we are looking for every scrap of information.” Clinton said.

She praised law enforcement for quickly responding to recent terror attacks.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to vacuum up intelligence from the U.S, from the Middle East,” she said.

Clinton said the U.S. must work with NATO to improve intelligence and focus on preventing terrorism.

She blasted Trump for “consistently insulting Muslims abroad and Muslims at home,” when America should be encouraging close, cooperative relationships with Muslim communities.

Trump said, “We’ve been working with them for years, and it’s a mess.”

As for ISIS, Trump told Clinton: “You were secretary of state when ISIS was a little infant. Now it’s in over 30 countries. And she’s going to stop them? I don’t think so.”

Holt, Clinton and Trump also went back and forth over whether Trump supported the war in Iraq.

“I was against the war in Iraq,” Trump said. “The record shows that I am right.”

Terrorism is a top issue this election season, and 80 percent of registered voters say it is “very important” to their vote in November. Monday’s big debate takes place only 21 miles from the scene of New York City and New Jersey bomb attacks by Muslim terror suspect and Afghan immigrant Ahmad Khan Rahami on Sept. 17 and 18.

The debate took place just three days after Muslim Turkish immigrant Arcan Cetin entered a Washington state mall and shot five people and only one week after Somali immigrant Dahir Adan allegedly stabbed 10 people at a Minnesota mall while shouting “Allah” and asking his victims whether they were Muslim.

The U.S. experienced 7,712 terrorist encounters in just one year – from July 20, 2015, to July 20, 2016 – according to a Breitbart report published Monday that cited leaked FBI data. Most of the “Known or Suspected Terrorist Encounters” reportedly occurred near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Who has the best judgment and temperament?

Trump ripped Clinton: “I have much better judgment and a much better temperament. I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament.”

Trump recalled Clinton apparently speaking angrily to someone with the AFL-CIO: “I don’t know who you were talking to, Secretary Clinton, but you were totally out of control. I said there’s a person with a temperament that’s got a problem.”

Watch Trump’s comments about Clinton’s temperament: 

“Whoo! OK,” Clinton said, making fun of Trump.

“A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not be anywhere near the nuclear codes,” Clinton charged.

“That line is getting a bit old,” Trump fired back.

“It’s a good one, though,” Clinton replied. “It well describes the problem.”

“It’s not true,” he said.

Neck and neck in the polls

The latest Bloomberg poll shows the lead Clinton held nationally in most polls through August has evaporated as concerns about her health, qualifications, scandals and temperament have caught up with her.

According to that national poll, Trump and Clinton are both favored by 46 percent of likely voters. When third-party candidates were included, Trump leads Clinton 43 to 41 percent. More than 70 percent of respondents questioned Clinton’s honesty, saying her “truthfulness” is “just fair” or “poor.” About 60 percent said the same of Trump.

A Quinnipiac poll during the same period had Clinton ahead 47 to 46 percent, but a Los Angeles Times/USC Tracking poll showed Trump with a four-point lead at 46 to 42 percent.

What do YOU think? Who won Monday’s big presidential debate? Sound off in today’s WND poll

Clinton’s personal guests Monday night included billionaire Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks; Lauren Manning, a woman who was injured in the Sept. 11 terror attacks; Maxine Outerbridge, a single mom who survived domestic violence; Anastasia Somoza, a woman with cerebral palsy who attacked Trump at the Democratic National Convention; and Aleatha Williams, who reportedly was a pen pal with Clinton when Williams was only 8 years old.

At the first presidential debate, billionaire Mark Cuban exits a bus at Hofstra University alongside Jesse Jackson (Photo: Twitter/Jennifer Griffin)

At the first presidential debate, billionaire Mark Cuban exits a bus at Hofstra University alongside Jesse Jackson (Photo: Twitter/Jennifer Griffin)

Trump’s guests were Mark Geist, a survivor of the of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya; Bruce LaVell, director of Trump’s National Diversity Coalition;  Karen Vaughn, Gold Star mother of fallen Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn; Gen. Mike Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; and Gen. Keith Kellogg, a Trump foreign-policy adviser.

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