There was no handshake as the two men took the stage and while this was due to Covid-19 restrictions, the absence of the traditional greeting symbolized divisions through the country in the final countdown to November 3.

Trump went as hard on Biden as he’d threatened, saying the “radical left” had the centrist Democrat “wrapped around their little finger.”

And he got personal by accusing the former vice president’s son of corruption.

Joe Biden, Presidential Democratic candidate on Tuesday called President Donald Trump a liar and told him to “shut up” as the pair clashed in a bad-tempered start to their first televised debate.

Trump fired back by saying: “There’s nothing smart about you, Joe. Forty-seven years, you’ve done nothing.”

The tension was visible from the start, with the pair interrupting each other repeatedly, leading Biden to lash out at one point: “Will you shut up, man!”

“The fact is that everything he is saying so far is simply a lie. I’m not here to call out his lies. Everybody knows he’s a liar,” Biden said.

“Liar,” “racist” and “clown” were just some of the missiles launched from Biden, who also branded Trump the “puppy” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This will go down as one of the worst debates in history,” Aaron Kall, a presidential debate specialist at the University of Michigan said.

When asked by Wallace, the moderator whether they pledged to urge calm and refrain from declaring victory if the results are not immediately known November 3, Biden said: “Yes.”

Trump, who wouldn’t commit, said that if he saw “tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that.”

Biden tied Trump to the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives in the United States, more than in any other country.

“How many of you got up this morning and had an empty chair at the kitchen table because someone died of Covid?” Biden said, channelling his famed ability to show empathy for the suffering — something that Trump has long had difficulty in matching.

While mocking the 74-year-old Trump for one of his more notorious statements on supposed cures for coronavirus, Biden said: “Maybe you could inject bleach in your arm and that would take care of it.”

Trump broke longtime presidential transparency by refusing to publish his tax returns. He reportedly used loopholes to pay just $750 in federal tax during the first year of his presidency.

A few hours before the debate, Biden published his own tax returns — and demanded that Trump do the same.

Trump insisted that he has paid “millions” in taxes.

The debate was watched by a divided nation across both the Republican and Democratic parties. It comes 35 days ahead of the tensest US election in recent memory.