Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris squared off in the only vice presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle Wednesday night in Salt Lake City. The debate was held amid a coronavirus outbreak at the White House, with President Trump, first lady Melania Trump and more than a dozen West Wing staffers infected by COVID-19. Pence has tested negative for the virus.
Yahoo News provided a live fact check during the 90-minute debate, highlighting false and misleading claims made by the candidates in real time. For a complete recap, see the blog below.
Recapping the vice presidential debate
• Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris faced off in their only debate Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, separated by plexiglass barriers and seated 12 feet apart amid a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases at the White House. Debate moderator Susan Page, the USA Today Washington bureau chief, was also seated 12 feet away from the candidates.
• Pence and Harris kicked off the debate discussing the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans to date. Harris called it the "greatest failure of any presidential administration" while Pence defended Trump, saying he "has put the health of America first."
• Harris and Pence sparred over appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, with Harris insisting that the vacant Supreme Court seat should be filled by the winner of next month's presidential election, while Pence pressed Harris on whether a Biden administration would support adding more justices to the Supreme Court.
• “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking,” Harris said after she was cut off by Mike Pence, one week after the first presidential debate was derailed by constant interruptions and crosstalk. Later in the evening, Page also reprimanded the vice president for interrupting, saying, "I'm here to enforce" the debate rules.
• After a cordial debate that stood in stark contrast to last week's heated, off-the-rails presidential debate, Harris and Pence were joined on stage by their spouses. Harris's husband, Douglas Emhoff, wore a mask; Pence's wife, second lady Karen Pence, did not.
Karen Pence goes maskless
After a mostly cordial vice presidential debate that stood in stark contrast to last week's heated, off-the-rails presidential contest, Kamala Harris and Mike Pence were joined on stage by their spouses. Harris's husband, Douglas Emhoff, wore a mask; Pence's wife, second lady Karen Pence, did not.
Claim: Harris says Trump refused to condemn white supremacists at first debate
Fact check: During a discussion of the recent protests and violence in Portland, Ore., and other U.S. cities at last week’s presidential debate, Trump was asked if he was willing to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and tell them to stand down and not contribute to the violence.
“Sure. What do you want to call it?” Trump asked, seeking clarification on what he was supposed to be condemning.
“White supremacists and right-wing militia,” moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden then suggested that the president specifically condemn the Proud Boys, a group of self-described “Western chauvinists” whose members appeared alongside white supremacist groups at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., and have been a consistent presence during more recent clashes in Portland.
“Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by,” Trump said. The comments were immediately celebrated by the group online.
The next day, the president tried to clean up his comments, telling reporters that the Proud Boys should allow law enforcement to do their work.
Harris gestures during Wednesday's debate. (AP Photo)
In debate, Kamala Harris says she won't take COVID vaccine just on Trump's say-so
Sen. Kamala Harris said during Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate with Vice President Mike Pence that she didn’t trust the administration’s push to rush a coronavirus vaccine into production.
“If the public health professionals, if Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it. Absolutely,” Harris said during the live debate in Salt Lake City, when asked if Americans should take a vaccine if the Trump administration approves one before or after the election. “But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it. I'm not taking it.”
“We’re going to have a vaccine in record time, in unheard of time in less than a year,” Pence countered. “We have five companies in phase-three clinical trials. And we're right now producing tens of millions of doses. So the fact that you continue to undermine public confidence in a vaccine, if the vaccine emerges during the Trump administration, I think is unconscionable. And senator, I just ask you: Stop playing politics with people's lives.”