At the first presidential debate for the 2020 election, both President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden were fired up, talking over each other and basically bickering more than debating. It was an adventure, to say the least. After the second debate was canceled, the American people were left wondering not only if the third debate would happen but how much of a fight it would be.
The rematch did happen on Oct. 22, 2020, and dare we say, it felt a bit peaceful in comparison to the first debate. The final debate before the election, which took place at Belmont University in Nashville, saw both President Trump and former Vice President Biden discussing topics such as racism in America, COVID-19, climate change, and more.
Unlike the first debate, both candidates more willingly answered in turn and respected the other while they were speaking. Part of that was due to their microphones being muted when they were out of time, but nevertheless, the debate was civil. You can always count on President Trump’s gesticulations while he’s speaking, though, and this debate was no different. We gathered insight from a body language expert to get a professional’s take on President Trump’s performance.
Donald Trump's body language shows 'extreme disdain' for Joe Biden
Alison Henderson, a body language expert at Moving Image Consulting LLC, told Nicki Swift that President Donald Trump’s body language at the Oct. 22, 2020, debate was his usual. “Overall, he used less pressure than in the first debate perhaps in an attempt to be less combative than what we saw in the first debate,” she said. Henderson thinks Trump looked like he’d been coached, especially at the beginning of the debate, when he appeared to show restraint.
Henderson pointed out that President Trump frequently uses an accordion-like hand movement and shared insight on what it could mean. “He continued his open palm movement throughout the debate in his ‘I have nothing to hide’ signal,” she said. “Often, he did this move with shrinking his shoulders and tightening his body when he brought his hands to his center. This can undermine the truth signal by giving the signal that he is shrinking away from his words.”
Henderson also noted that President Trump chose to speak to former Vice President Joe Biden rather than to the camera — and the people viewing at home. She said she also believes the way Trump addresses Biden has a particularly strong meaning. “Wiggles through his body show his real feelings of extreme disdain for Biden when Biden is speaking. He stands with his head cocked to the side, looking down his nose at Biden to come across as superior.”
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