Vice Presidential Debate: Flies and Fact-checking

Statesman breaks down subjects discussed in the only vice presidential debate


On Wednesday, October 7, the only vice presidential debate between Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence was a civil dialogue between candidates. Both candidates criticized the other’s policies and spoke directly to the American people. Due to the age of the Presidential candidates and the possibility of no other Presidential debates, this debate held more important than most years, as both vice presidential candidates were able to clarify their positions and defend their respective running mates.

The debate on Wednesday ended up a very different representation of the candidates than the last debate; “the dynamics represented a rare 2020 return to some semblance of normal presidential politics,” AP News noted. While candidates occasionally ran afoul of the debate clock, interrupted, and did not completely answer the question asked, they were calm and polite to each other and moderator Susan Page. 

Considering the recent diagnosis of President Donald Trump with the coronavirus, the fate of the future debates remains unclear. Additional safety measures were enacted for this debate: plexiglass placed between the candidates, and desks placed 12 feet apart. The diagnosis was discussed during the debate and contributed to the COVID-19 response talks.

While their running mates also covered many of the topics discussed by the candidates, a week and different personalities often changed the responses. During the debate, the candidates fielded questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, climate change, police reform, systemic racism, and defended their running mates.


Here are a couple of crucial points from the debate:


Police Brutality

When prompted, Trump did not condemn white supremacy during the first presidential debate, sparking backlash. The Trump administration has been accused of being racist numerous times; in 2017, Trump said there were “good people on both sides,” in regards to an alt-right rally and peaceful counter protesters. Recently, as Black Lives Matter protests swept the world, he has focused on riots, none of which were condoned by the BLM movement.

This debate offered a chance for Pence to clarify the administration’s stance. Pence was asked to speak about Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot by police officers operating under a no-knock warrant. He acknowledged her family but did not condemn the court’s decision to not criminally charge the officers.

“But I trust our justice system—and a grand jury that refused the evidence,” Pence said.

Harris, a former prosecutor, disagreed with Pence. She also went a step further and called for changes in law enforcement.

“Bad cops are bad for good cops,” Harris said. “We need reform for policing in America and our cops.”



In September, The New York Times released a report on Trump’s taxes, where it is reported one year he only paid $750. The candidates have different views on taxation. Due to this, taxes were discussed in the debate. Pence alleged that under Biden, taxes of the average American would rise due to Biden’s indication to repeal the Trump administration’s tax cuts. 

“Joe Biden has been very clear: he will not raise taxes on anybody who makes less than $400,000 a year,” Harris said. She, in turn, brought up Trump’s taxes, saying, “When I first heard about it, I literally said, ‘You mean $750,000?”

Pence pushed back on The New York Times report, suggesting that the average American could disprove the statement. The New York Times report also alleged Trump has more than $400 million due in repayments

“The President said those public reports are not accurate and the president’s also released literally stacks of financial disclosures the American people can review just as the law allows,” Pence said.


COVID-19 Response

While Harris briefly covered Biden’s plan to help flatten the curve, the majority of the time was spent debating the effectiveness of Trump and Pence’s efforts to curb the pandemic.

Harris came out of the gate extremely critical of Trump’s coronavirus response, saying, “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” also saying that she would be “first in line” to take a vaccine under the Trump administration as long as Dr. Fauci and other doctors approved it.

Pence disagreed and spoke favorably about the Trump administration’s response. He suggested that he was proud of where the nation stands with the coronavirus.

“When you say what the American people have done over these last eight months hasn’t worked, that’s a great disservice to the sacrifices the American people have made,” Pence said.

Pence also defended the White House over the event to honor Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, where social distancing was not in place and allegedly a super-spreader event.

“Many of the people who were at that event, Susan, were actually tested for coronavirus, and it was an outdoor event which all our scientists regularly and routinely advise,”  Pence told moderator and USA Today Washington Bureau, Chief Susan Page.


Climate Change

The Trump administration has a questionable record on climate change; withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, replacing President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan with weaker regulations, and speeches that warned of “perennial prophets of doom.” The debate offered a chance for Pence to clarify the administration’s actions.

“President Trump and I believe that the progress that we have made in a cleaner environment has been happening precisely because we have a strong free market economy,” Pence said, adding that “we’ll follow the science,” and accused the Biden campaign of wanting to ban fracking.

Harris was quick to fire back at these comments. While Pence focused on the impact climate change regulations would have on the economy, Harris often fact-checked his comments.

“First of all, I will repeat, and the American people know, that Joe Biden will not ban fracking,” Harris said. She emphasized Biden’s proposed commitment to science in her responses.


The Economy

Since March, the economy has been doing poorly; while it has improved, many Americans are still out of work or struggling. Recently, Trump announced that he would not approve another stimulus bill until after the election. 

“The V-shaped recovery that’s underway right now will continue with four more years of President Donald Trump,” Pence said. 

Harris disagreed with Pence’s positive claims, denouncing the administration’s economic response. She claimed Trump was ignoring the average American.

“Joe Biden believes you measure the health and the strength of America’s economy based on the health and strength of the American worker and the American family,” Harris said. “On the other hand, you have Donald Trump, who measures the strength of the economy based on how rich people are doing.”

A recent trade war with China also factored heavily into the debate, Harris denouncing it and Pence accusing Biden of being “a cheerleader for communist China.”

Both candidates ended up dodging questions, most notably when Senator Harris did not directly answer if the Democrats were in favor of packing the Supreme Court. At one point, Pence asked for more time to respond to Harris, then interrupted the moderator.

However, as NPR News remarked, the debate was “a return to a more traditional affair,” and the candidates were able to defend their goals if elected.

According to a CNN/SSRS poll, 59% of voters thought Harris won the debate, while 38% of voters thought Pence won. As it is unclear whether other presidential debates will happen, this debate’s impact will likely impact the election more than most years.