TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Former Vice President Joe Biden has faced some criticism in recent months for not doing in-person interviews with reporters. But during a visit to Tampa on Tuesday, Biden agreed to speak exclusively with 8 On Your Side’s Keith Cate.

It was Biden’s first interview with a reporter in Florida since he became the Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, and he addressed several topics including the pandemic, nationwide protests, the economy and his upcoming debate against the president.

Biden on veterans

Biden was in Tampa to hold a roundtable discussion with veterans. When we spoke with Biden after the roundtable, the former VP told us he thinks President Donald Trump has failed veterans in “a number of ways.”

“The biggest way it’d be different (if I were commander-in-chief) is I’d show respect for them. The idea that he refers to anyone who’s volunteered to go in the military and those who have lost their lives as suckers…is just so insulting,” Biden said. “I mean, these folks – 1 percent of the population has gone off to protect the rest of it. And he treats them like they’re expendable.”

The Democratic nominee also noted that his son served in Iraq.

“He wasn’t a loser. He wasn’t a chump. He was a patriot,” Biden said. “Just like all those other people out there who have given their lives and given their time and given their effort and the families that are left behind. So I just find it despicable the way he talks about veterans.”

How would he respond to coronavirus?

The former VP has been highly critical of President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. If he were president right now and the United States saw another spike in cases, Biden told us he would follow a plan that he laid out in March.

“Number one, we have to get in place same-day testing and do it quickly. Move on it, move on it, make it nationwide,” he said.

Biden also said we need to be in a position to provide masks and other personal protective equipment to nurses, doctors and first responders.

And when it comes to wearing masks, Biden said he would be setting an example for Americans by wearing one and being responsible.

“I would encourage everyone to wear a mask, I would encourage every governor to make it a mandate in their state,” he said.

Biden addresses protests

Biden, who has faced criticism from some Republicans who say he hasn’t addressed violence during protests, made clear on Tuesday that he condemns it.

“There’s no justification for violence in a protest. None. Zero. No matter who commits it, none,” he said. “A protest is the ability to go out and speak and make your case. But no violence. All of it should be condemned, across the board.”

He also said the country needs to be in a place where people are treated equally.

“The idea that those two officers were shot, those two sheriff’s deputies shot in California…it’s just absolutely outrageous that we’re, in fact, not condemning that,” Biden said. “We have to bring law enforcement and the African American and other communities together. I’ve done that before, we can do it again.”

How would he help out-of-work Floridians?

When it comes to the economy and helping the middle class, Biden said his first priority would be to get the pandemic under control.

“You have to make sure that you get the COVID crisis under control. And you have to be able to move in that direction,” he said. “You can’t get much done until you get that done.”

He also said we need to provide opportunities to Americans for work. Biden noted that a significant portion of work opportunities in Florida are in the hospitality industry and said we need to be in a position where we’re able to sanitize and provide PPE.

“Very little of that is being done. That’s how we get people back to work,” he said. “Overall, not just the hospitality industry, we can significantly increase manufacturing by making sure we make it in America.”

“Get ready, Mr. President.”

Biden is set to face President Trump in their first presidential debate at the end of the month. Trump has said he has low expectations for his Democratic challenger, calling Biden a “disaster.”

When we asked if he’s looking forward to debating the president, the former VP chuckled and said he was.

“I’m looking forward to the debate and he’s a fool. The comments are just foolish,” he said. “Get ready, Mr. President. Here I come.”