Kamala Harris accuses Mike Pence of COVID ‘cover-up’ as she lashes Trump administration’s record on pandemic at VP debate – and he accuses her of fueling anti-vaxxers and being ‘ultra-liberal’ (but it’s the fly on his head which is the real star)
The Vice Presidential debate, moderated by USA Today’s Susan Page, kicked off in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wednesday night between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris
- Pence and Harris met on a plexiglass-protected stage, after President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, with coronavirus being the first issue up for debate
- ‘Here’s the thing, on January 28th, the vice president and the president were informed about the nature of this pandemic,’ Harris said. ‘They knew and they covered it up. The president said it was a hoax’
- Pence refuted Harris’ claims that the Trump administration has failed the American people, saying, ‘From the very first day, President Donald Trump has put the health of Americans first’
- A fly landed on Pence’s head for two minutes and 20 seconds which became the breakout star of the night for viewers at home and on Twitter
- The tone for much of the 90 minutes was a marked contrast to last week’s chaotic and bitter slam-fest between President Trump and Joe Biden
- Pence consistently flouted the time limits, leaving the moderator struggling, and prompted Harris to say, ‘Mr. Vice President, I’m still speaking,’ when he interrupted her
- Page asked Pence how the administration can be an authority on COVID-19 after hosting a so-called ‘superspreader’ event to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett
- ‘The work of the president of the United States goes on,’ Pence answered. ‘If we may say that Rose Garden event. There’s been a great deal of speculation about it,’ adding that it was an outdoor event
- The debate in Salt Lake City was the first and only time the vice-presidential candidates will go head-to-head
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris accused Vice President Mike Pence of a COVID ‘cover-up’ in the opening minutes of Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City, Utah.
‘Here’s the thing, on January 28th, the vice president and the president were informed about the nature of this pandemic,’ Harris said. ‘They knew and they covered it up. The president said it was a hoax.’
Pence slapped back and said the plans the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Harris were touting to deal with the coronavirus looked a lot like what the White House coronavirus taskforce was already doing.
‘It looks a little bit like plagiarism, which is a little something Joe Biden knows a little bit about,’ Pence said.
It was a fiery start to the debate, but the tone for much of the 90 minutes was a marked contrast to last week’s chaotic and bitter slam-fest between their running mates.
Moderated by USA Today journalist Susan Page under the same rules as the Cleveland debate, it never delivered the shouting-match of that clash – but there were memorable slams from Harris on Pence over his consistent flouting of time limits when the California senator said: ‘Mr. Vice President, I’m still speaking.’
Pence and Harris both avoided answering question after question fully, with Page not intervening to press for answers on issues including whether Pence would want abortion made fully illegal if Roe v. Wade was overturned, and whether Harris would stack a conservative Supreme Court.
Both sides walked away from the debate feeling they had delivered their preferred talking points, but Harris’ prosecution of Pence on COVID and on healthcare appeared more likely to resonate with a wider audience than his defense of the Trump record and attacks on Democrats for ‘trying to overturn the results of the election.’
It was for both campaigns a critical moment: on the one hand, the historic fact of a black woman in a vice-presidential debate, on the other a chance to reset after last week’s catastrophic debate performance by Trump.
Pence, under CDC guidelines should not even have been there after his exposure to a series of infected people at the White House, most of all with Trump himself.
But in a year when nothing is normal, it was a fly which landed on Pence’s head for two minutes and 20 seconds which became the breakout digital star of the night, earning an instant Twitter following and satirical memes.
Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris opened Wednesday night’s Vice Presidential debate in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the issue of COVID-19
Harris accused Pence of a COVID ‘cover-up’ in the opening minutes of Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City, Utah
Wednesday’s debate was moderated by USA Today journalist Susan Page under the same rules as the Cleveland debate – but it never delivered the shouting-match of last week’s presidential debate
The debate saw the candidates seated on a plexiglass-protected stage, after President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Harris is the first woman of color to ever appear on a major party’s presidential ticket
A fly landed on Pence’s head during the debate and remained there for two minutes and 20 seconds, which became a distraction for many viewers at home and a breakout digital star of the night
Harris opened up by pointing out the 210,000 Americans dead, the 7million infected, the one in five businesses closed and the 30 million unemployed due to COVID-19. She accused the White House of treating frontline workers like ‘sacrificial’ workers
Pence slapped back at Harris and said the plans the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Harris were touting to deal with the coronavirus looked a lot like what the White House coronavirus taskforce was already doing. ‘It looks a little bit like plagiarism, which is a little something Joe Biden knows a little bit about,’ Pence said
Pence sought to tie Harris and, by extension, Biden to some of the most liberal policies in the Democratic Party when the two contenders debate climate policy. He tired to paint the Democratic duo as a threat to the jobs of blue-collar workers, a major voting bloc that helped put President Trump in office in 2016
THE BEST LINES FROM THE VP HEAD-TO-HEAD
Kamala Harris on the coronavirus
They knew and they covered it up. The president said it was a hoax. This administration has forfeited their right to reelection based on this
Mike Pence on Democrats’ COVID plan
It looks a little bit like plagiarism which is a little something Joe Biden knows a little bit about
Harris on the COVID response
I want to ask you: how calm were you when you were hunting for toilet paper? How calm were you when your children couldn’t see your parents because you were afraid they could kill them?
Pence on why no-one wore masks at Rose Garden super-spreader
The difference here is President Trump and I trust the American people to make choices in the best interest of their health
Harris on Trump’s taxes
We now know because of great investigative journalism that Donald Trump paid $750 in taxes. When I first heard about it, I literally said, you mean $750,000? And it was like no, $750
Pence on economic plans
America, you just heard Senator Harris tell you, on day one, Joe Biden is going to raise your taxes
Harris on Trump fighting to end Obamacare
If you have a pre-existing condition, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, they are coming for you. If you love someone who has a pre-existing condition, they are coming for you. If you are under the age of 26 on your parents’ coverage, they’re coming for you
Harris deals with interruptions
Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking
Harris on what motivates Trump
There’s a weird obsession President Trump has had with getting rid of whatever accomplishment was achieved by President Obama and Vice President Biden.
Susan Page on stopping Pence going over time
Mr. Vice President, I didn’t create the rules for tonight. Your campaigns agreed to them. I’m here to enforce them
Harris opened up by pointing out the 210,000 Americans dead, the 7million infected, the one in five businesses closed and the 30 million unemployed. She accused the White House of treating frontline workers like ‘sacrificial’ workers.
‘This administration has forfeited their right to re-election based on this,’ the California senator said.
She recalled how journalist Bob Woodward’s reporting had unearthed that the president wanted to downplay – which he said was to keep Americans calm.
‘I want to ask the American people, how, were you when you were panicked about where to get you next roll of toilet paper? How calm were you when your kids were sent home from school and you didn’t know when they would go back?’ she asked.
Pence shamed Harris for fueling anti-vax sentiment, calling it ‘unconscionable.’
She had told the small, socially distant audience that, ‘If Dr. Fauci, if doctors tell us to take it I will be the first in line to take it, absolutely. But if Donald Trump tells us to take it, I’m not taking it.’
Pence accused her of continuing to ‘undermine public confidence in a vaccine.’
‘Senator, I just ask you, stop playing politics with people’s lives,’ Pence said.
Debate moderator Susan Page asked Pence how the administration can be an authority on COVID-19 after hosting a so-called ‘superspreader’ event to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett. President Donald Trump remains infected with COVID-19.
‘The work of the president of the United States goes on,’ Pence answered. ‘If we may say that Rose Garden event. There’s been a great deal of speculation about it.’
Pence pointed out that it was an outdoor event, which experts have said are safer – but the White House event lacked proper social distancing and most attendees refused to wear masks.
‘The difference here was that President Trump makes the American people to make the choices in the best interest of their health,’ Pence said.
The vice president also said, ‘The American people have the right to know about the health and well-being of their president, and we’ll continue to do that.’
He took a minute to thank Americans for their wishes and prayers for Trump during his Walter Reed hospitalization. ‘I’m just extremely grateful and was more than a little moved by the broad and bipartisan support,’ he said.
‘And senator, I want to thank you and Joe Biden for your expressions of genuine concern,’ Pence said. ‘And I also want to congratulate you as I did on that phone call on the historic nation of your nomination.’
Harris is the first woman of color to ever appear on a major party’s presidential ticket.
She looked to the last Democratic administration, when Pence – like Trump earlier Wednesday – continued to blame the coronavirus on China.
‘There’s a weird obsession President Trump has had with getting rid of whatever accomplishment was achieved by President Obama and Vice President Biden,’ she said.
‘For example, they created within the White House an office that basically was responsible for monitoring pandemics. They got rid of it,’ Harris said.
Pence, seated through two plexiglass shields away from her, said, ‘not true,’ under his breath.
The debate saw the candidates seated on a plexiglass-protected stage, after President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
The tone for much of the 90 minutes was a marked contrast to last week’s chaotic and bitter slam-fest between President Trump and Joe Biden. Pence consistently flouted the time limits, leaving the moderator struggling, and prompted Harris to say, ‘Mr. Vice President, I’m still speaking,’ when he interrupted her
Debate moderator Susan Page asked Pence how the administration can be an authority on COVID-19 after hosting a so-called ‘superspreader’ event to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett. President Donald Trump remains infected with COVID-19
‘I want to ask the American people, how, were you when you were panicked about where to get you next roll of toilet paper? How calm were you when your kids were sent home from school and you didn’t know when they would go back?’ Harris asked
The vice president pointed out Harris co-sponsored the Green New Deal in the Senate and accused Democrats of wanting to ban fracking, the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into the ground so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas
The plexiglass at Wednesday night’s debate was a direct response to Trump contracting the coronavirus and the broader White House outbreak
Moderator Susan Page, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief, struggled to keep Pence within the allotted time for each response
Pence sought to tie Harris and, by extension, Biden to some of the most liberal policies in the Democratic Party when the two contenders debate climate policy. He tired to paint the Democratic duo as a threat to the jobs of blue-collar workers, a major voting bloc that helped put President Trump in office in 2016.
The vice president pointed out Harris co-sponsored the Green New Deal in the Senate and accused Democrats of wanting to ban fracking, the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into the ground so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.
Pence attacked the Democratic ticket several times on those issues – both of which became tied up with one another as the candidates pivoted to them depending on if they were attacking or defending their ticket’s respective positions.
‘Senator Harris, you are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts. You yourself said on multiple occasions when you were running for president that you would ban fracking,’ he said, referring to her Democratic presidential primary campaign.
Biden has said multiple times he would not ban fracking, which is used in the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania, although he has talked about changes to the process, calling it ‘new fracking.’
The Green New Deal is the brain child of the Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the liberal New York lawmaker who is one of the young stars of the Democratic Party. The environment is a top issue for younger voters, a group Biden has been courting.
Moderator Susan Page asked Harris about her sponsorship of the legislation, which calls on the federal government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions across the economy. It also wants to establish new high-paying jobs in clean energy industries.
Harris didn’t answer the question directly but instead addressed the fracking charge from Pence.
‘I will repeat, and the American people know that Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact. That is a fact,’ the California senator said, stating the position of the ticket while not addressing her position when she was a contender for the Democratic nomination.
Pence also defended the Trump administration’s record on the climate. Trump, in his first six months in office, removed the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, which Biden has vowed to return the country to should he win in November.
Pence defended the Trump administration’s record on the climate and went after the Democrats for the Green New Deal
Kamala Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff joined her on stage while wearing a mask following Wednesday night’s debate
At the end of Wednesday’s debate, Mike Pence’s wife joined him on the stage with a mask in hand to greet her husband before leaving the facility
The plexiglass on stage is seen getting a final inspection and polish during preparations for the Vice Presidential debate. Initially, Pence’s team objected to Harris’ request for plexiglass barriers, arguing it was medically unnecessary. But the Commission on Presidential Debates had already agreed to the barriers, and Pence’s aides said their presence wouldn’t dissuade him from attending the event
The Trump administration also has come under fire for rolling back many EPA regulations that critics say help businesses but hurt the environment.
Pence defended their actions.
‘I’m very proud on our record on the environment and conservation. According to all of the best estimates, our air and land are cleaner than any time ever recorded,’ he said.
‘President Trump has made it clear we are going to continue to listen to the science. Now Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would put us back in the Paris climate accord. They would impose the Green New Deal, which would crush American energy,’ he noted.
Harris blasted the administration however, saying they don’t believe in science.
‘We have seen a pattern with this administration, which is they don’t believe in science,’ she said.
As the talk on the climate moved to a discussion on jobs in the manufacturing industry – which makes up many of the industrial Midwest states that will help decide the election – Harris got in a hit at Pence, referring to his record as member of the House of Representatives.
‘Joe Biden is responsible for saving America’s auto industry, and you voted against it,’ she said.
Pence voted against the 2008 bailout when he was in the House, a fact the Biden campaign has reminded voters when the vice president campaigns in Michigan, another critical background state. The bailout was largely put together by the George W. Bush administration but carried out by President Obama’s.
There was a small, socially distant audience in attendance at Wednesday night’s debate and masks were required for all audience members. Harris’ husband (left) is seen in the front row
Pence and Harris met on a plexiglass-protected stage, which were newly installed after President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez is seen in the audience he waits to watch Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence debate
The debate hall at the University of Utah took precautions including a limited, socially distanced, audience are seen with masks as they wait to watch Wednesday night’s debate
A supporter of President Donald Trump holds a banner before the vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris
‘I think she’ll do well,’ Democratic nominee Joe Biden told reporters as he entered Wilmington’s Queen theater Wednesday in the hours before his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, hits the debate stage
Pence sought to pin down Sen. Kamala Harris Wednesday about whether Joe Biden will seek to pack the Supreme Court if elected – then got accused of packing the federal judiciary with white judges.
Pence made the attack in an expected follow up to the first presidential debate in Cleveland, where Biden dodged questions about whether he would seek to expand the size of the court if Democrats gain control of the Senate.
‘Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed?’ Pence asked her late in the debate, mentioning Trump’s pick to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Harris didn’t answer the question directly, but she did push back. ‘I’m so glad we went through a little history,’ she began.
She referenced an election eve vacancy under Abraham Lincoln, and said ‘The American people are voting right now and it should be their decision about who will serve on this most important body for a lifetime.’
But rather than go through the grievance filled more recent history of Supreme Court battles – and the Republican Senate’s failure to confirm Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick in 2016, she brought up another court fact – she fired a different volley at Pence.
‘Let’s talk about packing the court,’ she told him.
‘Of the 50 people who president Trump appointed to the Court of Appeals, not one is black. You want to talk about packing a court? Let’s have that discussion,’ said the Senate Judiciary Committee member.
According to a June Bloomberg News story, Trump had appointed one Hispanic and no blacks among 53 judges confirmed to the Court of Appeals after his nomination. The powerful lifetime appointees rule on key cases, some of which go on to the Supreme Court.
If Barrett is confirmed, conservatives will hold a 6-3 majority on the court, an tilt that infuriates liberals, after watching the GOP Senate stall the vacancy under Obama. It would be Trump’s third justice installed on the court in a country that is nearly evenly divided and where Joe Biden leads in the polls.
Pence brought up the Barrett nomination several times, saying at one point he did not know how she would rule on Roe v. Wade, although she signed onto a newspaper advertisement condemning it.
Harris warned that the Trump administration was in court trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
Pence was seated front row at a Gold Star families event Sunday, September 27 where at least one person has tested positive for COVID-19. The vice president, however, wasn’t seated close enough to the individual for him to fall under CDC’s quarantine guidelines
The White House put out two health updates on Pence Tuesday, one from his doctor and one from CDC Director Robert Redfield, explaining that none of the people the vice president interacted were ‘close contacts’ despite him being in the Rose Garden on September 26 for an event to announce his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett
Kingsbury Hall, at the University of Utah, is seen decorated with banners prior to Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate, which took place inside the building
Harris tore into Donald Trump‘s reported federal tax payments, claiming it’s important to find out to whom the president owes money.
‘Joe Biden has been incredibly transparent, and certainly by contrast, the president has not appeared both in terms of health records, but also let’s look at taxes,’ Harris said.
‘We now know because of great investigative journalism that Donald Trump paid $750 in taxes,’ Harris continued during the only vice presidential debate Wednesday evening in Utah. ‘When I first heard about it, I literally said, you mean $750,000? And it was like no, $750.’
Pence stood up for his boss, claiming the president has paid millions in taxes and shifted the discussion to the economy in general – praising Trump for creating jobs both before being elected president when he was a businessman and after.
‘The American people, who have a president who is a businessman, job creator, who has paid tens of millions of dollars in taxes. Payroll taxes, property taxes,’ the vice president said. ‘He’s created tens of thousands of American jobs.’
He continued: ‘The president said those public reports are not accurate, and the president has also released literally stacks of financial disclosures the American people can review, just as the law allows.’
‘When President Trump and I took office, America had gone to the slowest economic recovery since the great depression. They tried to tax our way to a growing economy,’ Pence said.
Carl (left) and Marsha Mueller (right) were the guests of Vice President Mike Pence at the vice presidential debate. Here they hold up a photo of their murdered daughter Kayla Mueller while speaking at the Republican National Convention in August
The report that the Muellers would be Pence’s guests came on the heels of ISIS fighters Alexanda Amon Kotey (left) and El Shafee Elsheikh (right) being flown to the U.S. and indicted on crimes associated with Kayla Mueller’s and journalist James Foley’s deaths
Pence brought murdered ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller’s parents to the debate – the same day two of her alleged torturers were indicted in the U.S., raising questions on whether the charges were timed to help the VP.
Axios first reported Carl and Marsha Mueller would be Pence’s guests, as he debates Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris Wednesday night from Salt Lake City.
The report came out on the heels of one-half of the so-called ‘Beatles’ ISIS fighters – Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh – being charged with a slew of crimes related to Kayla Mueller and journalist James Foley’s deaths.
Harris planned to bring two up-and-coming Utah Democratic politicians as her guests.
Having the Muellers at his side allowed Pence to hit Harris on Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s time in office – as they’ve blamed him and President Barack Obama for failing to save Kayla Mueller’s life.
Pence had traveled to Salt Lake City Monday in advance of his doctor releasing a statement explaining why the vice president was cleared to go after appearing at events where officials have since tested positive – including the September 26 Rose Garden ceremony where Trump announced his selection of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court.
He also appeared at an event Sunday for Gold Star families where at least one individual tested positive.
‘Vice President Mike Pence is not a close contact with any individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, including President Donald J. Trump and senior members of the White House administration, according to the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control.’
‘Vice President Mike Pence is encouraged to go about his normal activities and does not need to quarantine,’ Pence’s physician, Dr Jesse Schonau, said.