There was nowhere to hide at the second presidential debate. On the floor of the town-hall-style event, the candidates and their body language were fully exposed, leaving every move and expression open to analysis.
The contentious debate came after a tumultuous weekend for Donald Trump who spent 48 hours defending lewd comments he made about women in 2005, then tried to rattle Hillary Clinton with a pre-debate press conference featuring four women who have either accused former president Bill Clinton of sexual assault, or whose sexual assault was prosecuted by Clinton in her role as a public defender.
After the success of the split-screen broadcast from the first debate, networks continued the trend, allowing viewers to see both the speaking candidate and the reaction of their opponent. With demeanor as telling as statements, poker faces were at a high premium. But given the cutting, personal nature of the recent attacks, it would take incredible self-control not to betray emotion during 90 minutes of cross-examination.
How did the candidates really respond to the nastiest moments of the debate? Vocativ ran the split-screen feed of the event through facial recognition technology to analyze their expressions during the most talked-about moments of the second presidential debate.
Early in proceedings, Clinton provoked anger from Trump when asked to respond to his comments about the so-called “Trump Tapes.” She said: “With prior Republican nominees for president, I disagreed with them — on politics, policies, and principles, but I never questioned their fitness to serve. Donald Trump is different.” Trump’s displeasure automatically registered on his face.
But Trump wasted no time in going on the offensive, firing back at Bill Clinton’s record with women as a way of deflecting his own recently-uncovered transgressions. “What he’s done to women, there’s never been anyone in the history of politics in this nation who has been so abusive to women,” Trump said. Secretary Clinton’s reaction was swift.
After Trump’s personal blows about Bill Clinton’s indiscretions, Secretary Clinton responded with a line from the current First Lady’s speech at the Democratic convention — “I am reminded of what my friend Michelle Obama advised us all. When they go low, you go high.” Trump’s instant reaction to the iconic phrase showed that he she had landed a blow of her own.
After Hillary Clinton criticized Donald Trump for the “hateful and divisive campaign that he has run,” he took a pointed swipe at his opponent saying that she has “tremendous hate in her heart.” That failed to illicit a strong reaction from Clinton but what seemed to strangely tickle her was his next statement, calling her out for her comments describing his supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”
Despite his many slurs against minorities and immigrants, it seems that Donald Trump still smarts at the accusation that he might be a racist. Clinton claimed that he should apologies for peddling the “birther” myth, which she dubbed a racist insult. Our facial-recognition technology registered a bump in “upset” at that point from Trump.
This debate came almost a year to the day of when Bernie Sanders said to Hillary Clinton, in a Democratic town hall, that he was “sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” Trump, clearly, can’t hear enough. Despite the moderators having just posed a question to Hillary Clinton about her use of a private email server, Trump accused them of not covering it enough and ganging up on him, saying it was “one on three.” Clinton’s reaction reflected what many American’s watching at home reported feeling about the whole affair: sadness.