U.S. Vice President Mike Pence debates Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) at the University of Utah on October 7, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is the only scheduled debate between the two before the general election on November 3. Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Images
Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly made false claims about the Trump administration’s coronavirus response as he dodged, interrupted and obfuscated through the vice presidential debate on Wednesday.
Though the lone vice presidential debate was far more civil than the mind-melting presidential debate last week, it was not much different in substance. Moderator Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief for USA Today, asked Pence and Democratic nominee Kamala Harris about a range of important issues but completely failed to press the candidates to actually respond to her questions. That allowed Pence to repeatedly dodge questions he did not want to answer about Trump’s health, racial justice and even abortion.
Pence also refused to say what he would do if Trump rejected a peaceful transition of power, instead echoing the president’s false claims about virtually non-existent voter fraud.
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The two candidates were divided by plexiglass barriers after President Donald Trump and numerous top aides tested positive for the coronavirus following a possible “super spreader” White House event where Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was formally announced. Pence’s unusually red eyes prompted speculation about whether he had “COVID pink eye,” and he was instantly turned into a meme when a fly sat on his head for a full two minutes during one of the segments.
Harris also dodged questions throughout the night as she was repeatedly interrupted by Pence. CBS News found that Pence interrupted Harris twice as much as she interrupted him. Despite avoiding questions about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s health and whether the ticket supports expanding the Supreme Court, fact-checkers concluded that Harris was far more honest than her Republican opponent, who repeatedly made false and misleading claims about the Trump administration’s coronavirus response. Pence heads the chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Harris called the response to the pandemic the “greatest failure of any presidential administration,” repeatedly pointing out the mounting death toll in the U.S. Pence responded by bizarrely claiming that the Obama-Biden response to the H1N1 swine flu in 2009 was a bigger “failure,” because that virus infected 60 million people.
But the swine flu was far less dangerous than the coronavirus, which has killed more than 211,000 people in the US. By comparison, fewer than 13,000 Americans died from the swine flu. Because it was less deadly, it did not require a lockdown, which allowed the virus to spread wider than the coronavirus has thus far. The regular flu typically infects more than 35 million people each year and kills far more