Distractions, Hampton U. campus and a 3rd presidential debate

By Arianna Herriott

Between Donald Trump stating he may not accept election results and that voting is allegedly rigged, to former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton calling Trump a "puppet" of Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, the final showdown was definitely a movie-like Wednesday evening for the third and final presidential debate.

In the midst of it all, distractions – including lethal off-campus gunplay – filled Hampton University as many students were not tuned into the debate even though the Nov. 8 election is less than 20 days away.

Midterms were in full effect, yet the Hampton University Student Government Association managed to host a debate watch party for all students to witness each candidate state their final claim.

"I honestly wanted to attend watch party, but I had two midterms the next day which I needed to study for," said Alaria Benton (photo, top right), a sophomore interdisciplinary studies major from Greensboro, North Carolina. "However, I did keep track of the debate through Twitter."

A handful of students tuned into the debate, not only at the watch party, but also in their dorms. Some students weren't surprised how the debate went based on the previous debates.

"While watching the debate, I was not surprised at all by Trump's shenanigans," said Timia Whitsey, a sophomore journalism major from Houston. "It was just back and forth between the two candidates. While they did address issues like foreign policy, once again it was all low blows."

Considering it was the final debate and the last time to see Democratic candidate Clinton and Republican challenger Trump face off, more students could have been tuned in, however move distractions occurred: A shooting just off campus during the debate.

As students watched the debate, Group Me messages, text messages, and phone calls had numerous cell phones buzzing and lighting up. At 10:03 p.m. – about midway into the debate – Hampton University Police reported there was a shooting inside the Hampton Harbors apartments. The apartment complex is adjacent to the campus.

Instead of being tuned into what each presidential candidate said, some students tried to figure out who was killed or injured, and who witnessed the scene. At 12:25 a.m. Wednesday, campus police reported that no Hampton U. students were involved in the mayhem. At dawn, WVEC-TV reporter Elise Brown, reported from the scene that one person was dead and three people were injured.

The essence of the debate died down as students rushed to the Harbors to see what was going on and who was involved.

"I was watching the debate, but couldn't seem to focus because my phone was blowing up with messages asking if I was OK," said Doug Gardner (photo, right), a junior journalism major from Silver Springs, Maryland. "My entire focus changed so I didn't catch the end of the debate."

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Wednesday night's televised debate began without a handshake from the two candidates due to the heated tension that has been brewing during the campaign months. Hillary Clinton went into the debate leading the polls with the hope of sealing her fate as the future president of the United States. Republican candidate Donald Trump approached his podium knowing that he needed to win the debate.

Although there is a lot on the line, some Hampton University students said they would not be tuning into the debate. "I am not watching the debate tonight because I am not interested in either candidate," said Ronald Bell, a sophomore psychology major from Atlanta.

The debate began with tough topics in which the candidates expressed opposite views. They clashed upon the mention of Russia and WikiLeaks. Clinton pushed for Trump to say that he was responsible for Putin's interest in this election and branded him Putin's "puppet," but he countered her by saying that the former secretary of state was just mad because Putin outsmarted her on foreign policy countless times.

Both candidates brought up past statements that did not align with their current statements. Clinton suggested Trump was a hypocrite on the issue of immigration, saying he had "used undocumented labor to build the Trump Tower." When moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News quoted from a paid Clinton speech -- citing an excerpt revealed by WikiLeaks in which she said she dreamed of "open trade and open borders" -- Clinton said she was "talking about energy."

The debate turned to current allegations in the media that have accused Trump of harassing and disrespecting women. Trump said that the women who have come forward are only "seeking fame" or was hired by Clinton's "sleazy" campaign.

Moderator Wallace also brought up Trump's allegations of a rigged election and asked if he would support the choice of the American people regardless of the outcome.

Aside from the candidates, the moderator struggled to keep both candidates under control and respectful of their two-minute answers to questions. – Brendan Cole

Both writers are students in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

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