Donald Trump and Joe Biden have gone head to head in telecasts on rival networks that are in place of the second presidential debate, which was upended by Mr Trump's COVID treatment.

Mr Trump appeared to confirm for the first time reports that he is carrying US$420 million in personal debts that are set to come due in the next four years.

After disputing some of the figures recently reported by the New York Times, he admitted he had the debt.

"$400 million, compared to the assets that I have, all of these great properties all over the world," he said.

NBC host Savannah Guthrie said: "It sounds like your saying $400 million isn't that much but are you confirming that yes you do owe someone $400 million?"

Mr Trump replied: "What I am saying is that it's a tiny percentage of my net worth."

"$400 million is a peanut, it's extremely under levered and it's levered with normal banks, not a big deal."

He said he didn't owe Russia any money but that he may owe some to foreign banks.

But he again refused to release his tax returns, saying they were being audited.

The mood was lightened when a questioner told Mr Trump "I have to say you have a great smile".

"You're so handsome when you smile," said Paulette Dale, to a smattering of applause.

Mr Trump sat on a stool on an outdoor stage at some distance from Ms Guthrie in front of a masked and socially distanced audience, a mix of Trump, Biden and undecided voters.

He defended having held a party in the White House Rose Garden for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett the weekend before his diagnosis.

The garden party has been described as a "super spreader event" and been widely criticised for the number of attendees not wearing masks.

"I have to be out," he said.

"As president I can't be locked in a room for the next year and just say and do nothing.

"I can't be locked in a basement."

Mr Biden was asked if the swing demographic black voters under 30 will determine the election outcome, what will he do for young black voters.

He said black people needed better avenues to generate wealth and this has to start with early education.

"People of colour are behind an eight ball," he said.

With Americans set to vote in less than 20 days there is just one more scheduled debate in Nashville next week, but there remains a big question mark over whether it will go ahead.


Originally published as Voter flirts with Trump as President admits to $400m debt