Joe Biden Town Hall DIsaster

Joe Biden’s First Coronavirus Virtual Town Hall – An Expected Disaster

Oh Joe!

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign issued an apology last week after his attempted virtual town hall was disrupted multiple times by technical difficulties, a series of unfortunate events, and of course his own glaring mistakes.

These mishaps included a crying baby, looping feedback from the microphone, Joe Biden inexplicably walking off-camera (while still talking) and concluded with a frustrated sign-off. The apology email came out almost as quickly as the event ended, promising to supporters a better showing the next time around.

Tonight, you tuned in to our first ever virtual town hall, and unfortunately, we had some technical difficulties. That’s our bad. We’re working every day to make this campaign better, and in this new era, we are experimenting with new technology. We promise to do better next time.”

A Tough Night For Creepy Joe

The plan was straightforward: invite Illinois residents to an online event Friday instead of canceling the town hall event altogether. But former Vice President Joe Biden’s historic first-ever “virtual town hall” ended in technical calamity as his campaign confronted the very same challenges of unexpected remote work that millions of Americans are facing as a result of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

His campaign wanted to make the event available in a true town hall fashion, where those who attended would be able to ask him questions and he could respond with answers. However, in reality, the live question and answer feature added an extra layer of complication to the already difficult method of broadcasting via Facebook Live.

Those who signed up to participate in the town hall event could call in on their phones or stream a video on the business video conferencing app, Zoom, to be broadcast on Facebook Live for the entire social media world. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out as planned.  

Technical glitch after technical glitch exposed the challenges facing campaigns as they look for ways to connect with their voters without being able to invite them to a rally, debate, townhall event, or even a tenant of politicking – simply knock on their doors.

Shortly after the event, the campaign sent out an email apologizing for the technical problems and pledged to do better next time. The email did include a link to “a cleaned-up version of the webinar with working audio.”

A Disaster From The Jump

Even before the town hall began it was having issues. The original start time of Friday’s “virtual town hall” was first pushed back by two hours, and then it still started 15 minutes later than the postponed start time.

Simultaneously, as voters logged onto Zoom and waited eagerly to watch, the video started by alternating between confused-looking Democratic Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general and a member of the committee that is advising Joe Biden on how to handle campaigning amid a Covid-19 pandemic.

From there Senator Durbin (D), who wasn’t visible to those watching on Zoom, gave an introductory remark. Then when Joe Biden came on, his audio was so choppy that it couldn’t be understood. At one point, he stopped and restarted, but the audio problem persisted, none of which was even being broadcast on Facebook Live as intended! Leaving many who had planned to watch it confused and frustrated, before it even got started.

Issue After Issue

Here is a run down of some of the biggest problem with Joe Biden’s virtual town hall…

  • The very first person who was invited to ask a question instead offered an observation that “Mr. Biden’s speech was garbled the entire time.”
  • The campaign tried to take a question from a second person — who had apparently disconnected or left the call.
  • As the third questioner began, Biden asked, “Am I live?” (Cant make this up folks!)
  • As the fourth started, he wondered, “Am I on camera?” (Seriously, we can’t make this up!)
  • Biden was in the middle of an answer about health care when the Facebook Live broadcast had started. He finished that answer about 20 seconds into the live stream, and then the campaign tried to take his next question from someone named Maureen.
  • She, too, had dropped off.  “Maureen?” a staffer asked as the audience waited for her question. “Maureen, are you there?” Biden said.
  • About two minutes and 20 seconds into the Facebook Live video, Biden walked off camera. He was replaced by an “Illinois for Biden” sign as he answered a final question. (We aren’t kidding watch for yourself above)
  • Four minutes and 31 seconds in, the Facebook Live stream abruptly ended, and the Zoom feed shut off, and the event ended.

Too Little Too Late For Creepy Joe

Immediately afterward, Biden’s campaign emailed reporters apologizing for the technical difficulties, with a copy of the remarks he’d delivered at the beginning of the event that some viewers were not able to hear.

“Thank you for your patience as we continue developing our virtual town halls and ensure voters have the opportunity to connect with Vice President Biden as he lays out his vision for America,” the email to reporters said.

Joe Biden did the best he could do under the circumstances. Like many of us, the presumptive Democratic nominee tried to make the best use of the available resources available during these unprecedented difficult times. Biden’s first attempt at a virtual town hall Friday night did present several technical challenges but, I’m afraid this is the new normal for the foreseeable future during the age of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

“I’m sorry this is such a disjointed effort here,” Biden apologized as the feed dropped.

His campaign plans to correct the technical challenges and try again with the next online event scheduled for Florida voters on Monday to replace the canceled Miami rally.

We are left with this statement from the Biden campaign. “We had some technical difficulties, and that’s our bad. We’re working every day to make this campaign better, and in this new era, we are experimenting with new technology. We promise to do better next time.”

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