Nine days before Election Day, President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. offered sharply divergent visions for the country — including the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and foreign policy — in wide-ranging interviews on “60 Minutes.”
In both substance and demeanor, the two presidential candidates cut strikingly different figures during one of their last big opportunities to reach a national television audience during the campaign.
Mr. Trump was combative and testy during his interview with the “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl, insisting, as he has done repeatedly in recent days despite surging coronavirus cases, that the country was “rounding the corner” on the pandemic.
“We’ve done a very, very good job,” he said at one point, falsely arguing that the increase in cases was because “we’re doing so much testing.”
Speaking at a time when family, business and government finances have been battered by the pandemic, the president also painted a rosy picture of the nation’s economy, which he said was “already roaring back.” Pressed to specify his biggest domestic priority, Mr. Trump responded that it was to “get back to normal” and “have the economy rage and be great with jobs and everybody be happy.”
But perhaps the biggest headline to emerge from his interview was his behavior. As he became increasingly irritated with the questioning, he cut off his interview with Ms. Stahl, then taunted her on Twitter and posted a 38-minute clip of the interview on Facebook.
“Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Thursday with a link to the clip.
Mr. Biden, for his part, was more measured in his interview with Norah O’Donnell of CBS News.
But Mr. Biden was direct in his criticism of Mr. Trump. Asked what the biggest domestic issue facing the country was, he responded “Covid.”
“The way he’s handling Covid is just absolutely, totally irresponsible,” he said about Mr. Trump.
As he has done before, he also rejected the suggestion from Mr. Trump and Republicans that he was a “Trojan horse” for the Democratic Party’s left wing.
“Mr. President, you’re running against Joe Biden. Joe Biden has a deep, steep and successful record over a long, long time,” he said.
In answer to a question about whether Mr. Trump could still win the election, Mr. Biden said he could.
“It’s not over till the bell rings,” he said, saying Mr. Trump could win because of “how he plays.” Mr. Trump, he added, is “trying to sort of delegitimize the election” in a way that is “designed to make people wonder whether or not they should — whether it’s worth going to vote.”
Mr. Biden’s newsiest answer was about the Supreme Court. Asked whether he would expand the number of justices on the nation’s highest court if he were elected — a question that he has repeatedly faced since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month — Mr. Biden gave his clearest answer in weeks, saying he would establish a bipartisan commission of scholars to study a possible overhaul of the court system.
“I will ask them to, over 180 days, come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack,” Mr. Biden said.
For “60 Minutes,” the episode continued its tradition of interviewing the major candidates for president of the United States before the presidential election. It also featured interviews with Vice President Mike Pence, who is Mr. Trump’s running mate, and Senator Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s running mate.
The interviews were aired on a day when the candidates had very different schedules, reflecting their differing approaches to campaigning during the pandemic.
Mr. Trump swung through New England, addressing a crowd at an airport hangar in New Hampshire and then visiting an apple orchard in Maine. He attacked Mr. Biden’s economic proposals, which he called a “missile aimed at the heart of the middle class.”
Mr. Biden did not hold any in-person campaign events on Sunday, though he went to church near his Delaware home. And on Sunday night, he and his wife, Jill, made a brief appearance during a virtual concert held by his campaign, which included performances from a long list of artists, including Sara Bareilles, Jon Bon Jovi, Cher and John Legend. Mr. Biden emphasized the stakes of the election and told the concert’s hosts, in a nod to the star-studded lineup, “You’re making us heroes with our granddaughters.”