White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on Thursday defended President Trump's comment when he referred to MS-13 gang members as "animals," explaining it was not in reference to unauthorized immigrants.

"The president was very clearly referring to MS-13 gang members who enter the country illegally and whose deportations are hamstrung by our laws. ... If the media and liberals want to defend MS-13 they're more than welcome to. Frankly, I don't think the term the president used is strong enough."
— Sanders to reporters at a press briefing

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SurveyMonkey poll: Trump improves, but not enough

Trump and Biden during the final debate. Photo: Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images

President Trump's final debate performance exceeded Americans' expectations, but it wasn't enough to shift the dynamics that left him trailing Joe Biden across most measures, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

What they're saying: "Liar" was the word used most by debate watchers to describe Trump's performance, followed by "lies," "strong," "presidential" and "childish." "Presidential" was the word used most to describe Biden's performance, followed by "liar," "weak," "expected" and "honest."

Hunter Biden saga dominates online debate

Data: NewsWhip; Table: Axios Visuals

The mainstream media turned away. But online, President Trump's charges about Hunter Biden were by far the dominant storyline about the final presidential debate, according to exclusive NewsWhip data provided to Axios.

  • Coverage of business dealings by Joe Biden's son — and pre-debate allegations by one of his former business associates, Tony Bobulinski — garnered more than twice as much online activity (likes, comments, shares) as the runner-up.