Mike Pence couldn’t defend the White House’s coronavirus response, so he made up alternative facts

Mike Pence
Mike Pence

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

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Vaunted White House virus testing couldn’t protect Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — His press secretary once described President Donald Trump as the “most tested man in America” when it came to COVID-19. And variations on that message were the White House ready response any time critics questioned the president’s lax approach to following guidelines for avoiding the novel coronavirus.



A member of the cleaning staff sprays The James Brady Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


© Provided by Associated Press
A member of the cleaning staff sprays The James Brady Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)



A member of the cleaning staff wears a protective suit as she sprays The James Brady Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


© Provided by Associated Press
A member of the cleaning staff wears a protective suit as she sprays The James Brady Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

But that vaunted testing operation proved woefully insufficient in protecting the president and those who work for him at the White House, as evidenced by a string of positive tests over the past week for Trump, his wife and others in their orbit.



A member of the cleaning staff in protective clothing sprays the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


© Provided by Associated Press
A member of the cleaning staff in protective clothing sprays the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump demonstrated in dramatic fashion that relying on testing alone isn’t enough to create a safe bubble. Mask wearing and social distancing are other key ingredients for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and both have often been in short supply at the White House.

From the earliest days of the virus, Trump has provided conflicting advice on wearing a mask, noting that federal health experts were recommending them, but adding that “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

At another point, he said that “maybe they’re great, and maybe they’re just good. Maybe they’re not so good.”

And just last week, he poked at Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden on the topic: “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet ways from them, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

While the White House has not insisted on masks, it has insisted on testing. Anyone in close proximity to the president or vice president is tested prior to the day’s events, including reporters. The president is also tested regularly, as are his most senior aides.

“He’s tested more than anyone, multiple times a day. And we believe that he’s acting appropriately,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in July when asked whether the president was sending mixed messages on mask wearing. McEnany herself tested positive for the virus on Monday, she said.

Video: Experts say they’re not surprised at Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis (MSNBC)

Experts say they’re not surprised at Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis

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UP NEXT

A negative test result can sound reassuring, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a person is free from the coronavirus and not contagious. When the virus enters the body, it takes over a cell’s machinery to copy itself, while fending off the body’s immune defenses. But the

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