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Updates and analysis from Day 3 of the Republican National Convention

Wednesday's speakers included Mike and Karen Pence, Kellyanne Conway, Sen. Joni Ernst, Gov. Kristi Noem and Lara Trump.
Image: Vice President Mike Pence will be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.
Vice President Mike Pence will be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The Republican National Convention continued Wednesday with speeches from Vice President Mike Pence, his wife, Karen Pence, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

Pence delivered the evening's keynote address from Baltimore's Fort McHenry, whose defense of the city's harbor from the British in the War of 1812 inspired the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and he's expected to lean heavily on patriotic themes as he makes the case for a second term and draws a contrast with former Vice President Joe Biden.

Conway had one of her most highest-profile moments just days before she leaves the White House. The senior adviser, who managed the president's campaign in the final months of the 2016 election, has announced she will leave the administration at the end of the month to focus more on her family.

Other featured speakers included White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany; Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Joni Ernst of Iowa; South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem; the president's daughter-in-law and campaign adviser Lara Trump; and the former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading RNC news from this week.

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Lou Holtz attacks Biden as 'Catholic in Name Only'

Former football coach Lou Holtz gave a speech on Wednesday night hoping to boost the religious case for Trump's re-election, a common thread in several of the convention’s speeches.

"One of the important reasons he has my trust is because nobody has been a stronger advocate for the unborn than President Trump," he said. "The Biden-Harris ticket is the most radically pro-abortion campaign in history. They and other politicians are 'Catholics in Name Only' and abandon innocent lives. President Trump protects those lives. I trust President Trump."

Biden's Roman Catholic faith has been a central part of his life and political career spanning decades.

The GOP convention has received criticism for its overt themes of castigating those who are not pro-life. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, tweeted Wednesday night, "Pro life means pro all lives, not pro some lives.”

"Pro life means reverencing not just the unborn child, but the Black person whose life is endangered, the inmate on death row, the starving homeless person, the migrant family,” he said. 

McEnany and Conway seek to fix Trump’s 'caring' deficit

On the third night of the RNC, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and departing counselor Kellyanne Conway focused their speeches on describing President Trump as a caring person, an issue on which he struggles in polls.

McEnany spoke of how he called to care for her while she underwent a preventative mastectomy. "The same way President Trump has supported me, he supports you," she said. "I see it every day."

Conway said she has "seen firsthand, many times, the president comforting and encouraging a child who has lost a parent, a parent who has lost a child, a worker who lost his job, an adolescent who lost her way to drugs. Don’t lose hope, he has told them."

Trump trails Biden by 11 points in a recent CNN poll testing the often-important question of which candidate "cares about people like you." A recent YouGov poll found Trump was nine points underwater on whether he "cares about people like you,” while Joe Biden was six points in positive territory on the same question.

Fact check: Would Biden's plan raise taxes by $4 trillion? Yes, but it targets top earners.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said that the Democratic nominee Joe Biden wants to levy “$4 trillion in new taxes” on  “American workers, entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

It’s true that Biden’s tax proposals are estimated to raise taxes by approximately $4 trillion over 10 years, but Stefanik’s claim that Biden wants to tax middle class workers and small businesses is false.

Biden’s tax plan, aimed at making the ultra-wealthy and major corporations pay more, would raise taxes on high earners and includes proposals to tax capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income for people making more than $1 million a year and roll back President Trump’s tax cuts for people making more than $400,000. He also wants to raise the corporate tax rate and create tax minimums for corporate profits and corporations’ foreign earnings.  

In a recent interview, Biden said Americans making less than $400,000 a year and “Mom and Pop businesses that employ less than 50 people” wouldn’t see a tax increase. The Tax Foundation and the Tax Policy Center have both reviewed the proposals and found that the top 5 percent of taxpayers would be most affected. 

Madison Cawthorn, who could be youngest congressman in centuries, speaks at RNC

Madison Cawthorn, a 25-year-old Republican congressional candidate in North Carolina, spoke at the Republican National Convention Wednesday as President Trump sought to highlight one of the party’s younger voices.

“To liberals, let’s have a conversation. Be a true liberal, listen to other ideas and let the best ones prevail,” Cawthorn said. “To conservatives, let’s define what we support and win the argument in areas like health care and the environment.”

Cawthorn, who has used a wheelchair after an accident when he was 18, stood up at the end of his address, telling supporters to "be a radical for our republic. For which I stand."

A rising star in the party, Cawthorn was caught in a social media firestorm earlier this month after an old Instagram post in which referred to Hitler as "the Fuhrer" resurfaced. 

Cawthorn wins his election in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, a seat formerly held by Mark Meadows, he will be the youngest member of Congress in at least 200 years.

Fact check: The 19th Amendment didn’t given all women the right to vote

Second lady Karen Pence, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway and Lara Trump, a senior adviser to Trump's campaign, celebrated the passage of the 19th Amendment in their remarks on the third night of the RNC, something first lady Melania Trump touched on during her speech Tuesday, too.

“One hundred years ago today, the 19th amendment was adopted into the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Because of heroes like Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone women today, like our daughters, Audrey and Charlotte, and future generations will have their voices heard and their votes count,” Pence said.

Lara Trump claimed that, "One hundred years ago today, the 19th Amendment was ratified granting the right to vote to every American woman."

But all the women Wednesday night failed to acknowledge a crucial reality of the 19th Amendment: It enfranchised white women, while many Black women remained disenfranchised. The amendment outlawed keeping women from voting based on their gender, but Black women who attempted to vote in 1920 were often still subject to the poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses that disenfranchised Black men in many states.

Even prior to the 19th Amendment’s ratification, as women across the country organized, marched, and lobbied for enfranchisement, Black women took on their share of the work only to be shunned or excluded by the wider, white suffrage movement. Anthony herself grew hostile to the idea that a Black man would have the right to vote before white women. Black suffragists like Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Adella Hunt Logan constantly fought to be included in marches and were subjected to segregated or limited inclusion.

Kellyanne Conway’s RNC speech is a signal to suburban women

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, who managed President Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, gave a speech Wednesday night that both tried to humanize the president and signal to women in America’s suburbs — a crucial voting bloc for the campaign. 

“This has been a century worth celebrating, but also a reminder that our democracy is young and fragile. A woman in a leadership role still can seem novel. Not so for President Trump,” she said. “For decades, he has elevated women to senior positions in business and in government. He confides in and consults us, respects our opinions, and insists that we are on equal footing with the men.” 

Conway, one of the president's longest-serving advisers, is leaving her post at the end of the month.

Fact check: Kayleigh McEnany misleads on Trump and pre-existing conditions

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told a compelling story about her battle with a BRCAII genetic mutation, a pre-existing condition.

She said President Trump personally reached out to check on her and care for her as she sought a preventative mastectomy. “I know him well,” McEnany said. “And I can tell you that this president stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

Trump’s policy record on pre-existing conditions, however, tells a different story.

He has fought for legislation that would undo the Affordable Care Act and weaken those protections. He’s currently supporting a lawsuit that would wipe out current safeguards for pre-existing conditions, without offering a replacement plan. The president has also used his executive authority to expand the use of short-term health plans, which are less expensive but not required to cover pre-existing medical conditions.

Fact check: Does Biden want to defund police, ICE and the military? No, no and no.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, in her RNC speech Wednesday, accused Democrats — singling out Joe Biden and Kamala Harris by name — of wanting to defund the police, the military and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“As hard as Democrats try, they can't cancel our heroes, they can't contest their bravery and they can't dismiss the powerful sense of service that lives deep in their souls. So they tried to defund them. Our military, our police, even ICE, to take away their tools to keep us safe,” Blackburn said. “Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and their radical allies tried to destroy these heroes because if there are no heroes to inspire us, government can control us.”

All of her claims are not true.

As NBC News pointed out on both the first and second nights of the RNC (following similar claims from other Republicans), Biden does not support calls from some on the left to defund the police. He has explicitly said so on multiple occasions. In addition, the official Democratic Party platform, approved last week, includes no references to defunding the police.

Biden also has not called to abolish ICE. He has explicitly said he doesn’t want to abolish the agency, and has instead called for reforms, particularly regarding how it deals with undocumented immigrants who have not committed any crimes.

Biden has not made any pledges to defund the military, either, and has even faced calls from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party over not making a more overt commitment to slashing defense spending.

Blackburn, for her part, went further, saying Democrats “don't recognize” heroes like police officers “because they don't fit into their narrative.”

That’s also not true.

Biden, at the Democratic National Convention last week, said, “Most cops are good.” He added, “but the fact is, the bad ones need to be identified and prosecuted.”

McEnany opens about about health scare, but misses key fact

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany spoke at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday to talk about how President Trump supported her while she underwent a preventative mastectomy.

“It was my doctor, informing me that I had tested positive for the BRCAII genetic mutation— a mutation that put my chances of breast cancer at 84 percent,” she said, adding, “In my family, eight women were diagnosed with breast cancer — several in their 20s. I now faced the same prospect. For nearly a decade, I was routinely at my cancer hospital, getting MRIs and ultrasounds and participating in necessary surveillance.”

She said Trump called to check on her shortly after the procedure.

“Choosing to have a preventative mastectomy was the hardest decision I have made,” she said. “But supporting President Trump, who will protect my daughter and our children’s future, was the easiest.”

What McEnany didn’t say is the Affordable Care Act, one of President Obama's signature policy achievements, made insurance coverage for BRCA gene testing mandatory for women who meet certain criteria, not only those who can afford to pay for testing out of pocket. Trump and Republicans have tried repeatedly to repeal and replace the landmark health care law. 

Fact check: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem distorts recent protests

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, in her Republican National Convention speech Wednesday, accused Democrats — and only Democrats — of running cities that have been taken over by “violent mobs.”

"From Seattle and Portland, to Washington and New York, Democrat-run cities across this country are being overrun by violent mobs. The violence is rampant. There’s looting, chaos, destruction and murder."

This is a substantial distortion and exaggeration of the facts.

Outrage over the death of George Floyd, who died in May after the white Minneapolis police officer arresting him knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, sparked protests against police brutality and in support of racial justice all over the country, in cities and states run by both Democrats and Republicans.

While the cities Noem listed all have Democratic mayors, and are all in states with Democratic governors (with the exception of Washington, D.C.) , protests have taken place in at least 450 cities across the U.S. Those included large ones in Miami, whose mayor is a registered Republican. Protests also arose in smaller cities and towns in regions supportive of Trump.

Furthermore, Noem’s claim that the cities she spoke of were “overrun by violent mobs,” is outright false.

The protests across the U.S. in recent months were largely peaceful. Violent incidents did occur, but many were initiated by outside groups with political agendas. Violence during recent protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which formed after a Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by a police officer, appears to be following a similar pattern as protesters are met by armed pro-police counter activists. Read more here.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw honors front-line workers in RNC speech

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL and a rising star in the party, kicked off Night 3 of the RNC by honoring those who have served in battle in the U.S. armed forces and also those who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Since 9/11, I’ve seen America’s heroes up close. Some of them saved my life. Some of them saved many other’s lives. Many of them never made it home,” he said. “But America’s heroism is not relegated to the battlefield.”

He added: "Every single day we see them… if you just know where to look. It’s the nurse who volunteers for back to back shifts caring for COVID patients because she feels that’s her duty. It’s the parent who will re-learn algebra because there’s no way they’re letting their kid fall behind while schools are closed."

There have been nearly 6 million confirmed cases and more than 180,000 deaths in U.S., according to an NBC News tally. The administration has been routinely criticized for its lackluster response to the pandemic.