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Harris vs. Pence: Vice presidential debate updates and analysis

Wednesday's vice presidential debate comes less than a week after Trump announced he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris faced off in a heated debate Wednesday night, their first and only matchup.

The 90-minute debate started shortly after 9 p.m. ET at the University of Utah's Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading more on the debate here.

The coronavirus pandemic was a prominent topic at the debate, which came less than a week after President Donald Trump was diagnosed with Covid-19. As head of the White House coronavirus task force, Pence has faced criticism over the administration's response to the pandemic.

Read highlights from the debate, including fact-checks, takeaways and who some experts think won.

776d ago / 10:58 PM UTC


782d ago / 5:31 AM UTC

Karen Pence flouts debate rules, takes off mask on stage

782d ago / 5:04 AM UTC

Pence vs. Harris: Four takeaways from the only VP debate

The gloves stayed on. The train never left the rails. The sparks never flew. And a fly that briefly landed on Mike Pence's head may have been the most memorable moment of the only 2020 vice presidential debate.

The debate between the vice president and Harris, his Democratic counterpart, was a return to a more normal style of politics and a glimpse at what the 2020 election might look like without the singular personality of Donald Trump — or perhaps a preview of a future election between the same two candidates.

Harris and Pence proved to be polished and prepared debaters who stuck to their talking points, mostly respected the moderator and delivered more substance. And instead of the blatant insults and outright deceptions of last week's debate, they deployed the more typical tricks of slick politicians: dodging, obfuscation and exaggeration.

Here are four takeaways.

782d ago / 5:02 AM UTC

Who won the Pence-Harris debate? Experts give their verdict

Two of the three members of an NBC News panel of debate experts gave the nod to Sen. Kamala Harris in Wednesday night's debate with Vice President Mike Pence and the third called it a draw.

The highly anticipated face off enabled both candidates to lay out their ticket's policy positions more clearly than last week's chaotic first presidential debate, but fewer interruptions from Harris helped give her the edge.

Here are their report cards.

782d ago / 4:07 AM UTC

Pence vs. Harris: Four takeaways from the only VP debate

The gloves stayed on. The train never left the rails. The sparks never flew. And a fly that briefly landed on Mike Pence’s head may have been the most memorable moment of the only 2020 vice presidential debate.

The debate between the vice president and his Democratic counterpart Kamala Harris was a return to more normal style of politics and a glimpse at what the 2020 election might look like without the singular personality of Donald Trump — or perhaps a preview of a future election between these same two candidates.

Harris and Pence proved to both be polished and prepared debaters who stuck to talking points and mostly respected the moderator and delivered more substance. And instead of the blatant insults and outright deceptions of last week’s debates, they deployed the more typical tricks of slick politicians: dodging, obfuscation and exaggeration.

Here are four takeaways.

782d ago / 3:31 AM UTC

Desi Twitter, Black Twitter point out Harris' disappointed auntie vibe


Harris' facial expressions while Pence was responding to questions about the administration's Covid-19 response were a hit across social media. And Black Twitter and Desi Twitter — the space in which young South Asians share memes, TikToks and relatable experiences — put their own spin on it. Many joked that Harris, who's the first Black person and first Asian American to appear on the vice presidential debate stage, was giving looks reminiscent of a disappointed "auntie." 

782d ago / 3:30 AM UTC

Here's how Pence prepared for the debate

Pence held three more formal 90-minute sessions in advance of Wednesday's debate, according to a source with knowledge of his debate prep.

The source, who praised Pence's performance, said several people took turns playing the role of Harris: Scott Walker, Pam Bondi and former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. 

Per another source with knowledge, as part of his debate prep Pence had a call with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; another person involved in the prep was Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. 

782d ago / 3:23 AM UTC

Trump, Biden jump into their running mates' debate from Twitter

Trump interjected on Twitter during the vice-presidential debate Wednesday night by accusing Biden and Harris of seeking to ban fracking.

After Pence said the Democratic ticket would ban fracking, Harris denied it.

"Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact. That is a fact," she said.

Trump, in response, tweeted a video of Harris saying in September 2019, "There's no question I'm in favor of banning fracking."

Biden, for his part, responded to Pence after he accused the Biden-Harris ticket of seeking to raise taxes: "Let me be clear: A Biden-Harris Administration won't increase taxes by a dime on anyone making less than $400,000 a year."

Read more here.

782d ago / 3:19 AM UTC

Fact check: Pence claims Harris did 'nothing on criminal justice reform for California'

Pence, during an exchange with Harris, claimed his opponent "did nothing on criminal justice reform for California."

Harris, who served as the district attorney for San Francisco from 2004 to 2011 and as California attorney general from 2011 to 2017, has, in fact, faced a large amount of scrutiny over her records in those two law enforcement positions. But the claim she “did nothing on criminal justice” is an overstatement.

Critics have argued that Harris fought to uphold wrongful convictions, filed appeals against arguments fighting the use of the death penalty and robustly prosecuted low-level marijuana offenses — actions that disproportionately affected people of color.

They have also noted that she, while in those jobs, resisted numerous progressive reforms, like opposing statewide standards for the wearing of body cameras by police officers.

She’s also faced a chorus of criticism for her support of a law that threatened to put in jail the parents of children who missed so many days of school that they were considered truant. 

Harris and her supporters, however, have pointed to to her roll out of racial bias trainings, her advocacy for the use of police body cameras, and other reforms as evidence that she fought for criminal justice reform in California.

782d ago / 3:19 AM UTC

Fact check: Pence's false claim about protecting people with pre-existing conditions


Harris and Pence sparred over health care, arguing over who was protecting people with preexisting conditions.

Trump “is in court trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which means you will lose protections if you have pre-existing conditions,” Harris said, touting the gains that the ACA made in covering more Americans. 

“Obamacare was a disaster, and the American people remember it well. And President Trump and I have a plan to improve health care and protect the existing conditions for every American,” Pence countered.

The administration hasn't released a detailed heath care plan and hasn't offered a policy to cover pre-existing conditions.

While Trump has long insisted that he and the GOP will protect people with pre-existing conditions from losing their health insurance, he has pursued legislation, litigation and executive actions to dismantle those protections under the Affordable Care Act.

A Republican bill backed by Trump included ACA state waivers that would allow insurers to charge higher prices to people with pre-existing conditions, potentially pricing them out of the market. It passed the House and died in the Senate in 2017. Trump has also used executive actions to expand the use of short-term insurance plans that aren't required to cover pre-existing conditions.

Trump recently signed a symbolic executive order affirming the protections Obamacare created, but his administration is backing a Republican-led lawsuit claiming the actual protections in the law should be struck down.

782d ago / 3:18 AM UTC
782d ago / 3:10 AM UTC

Pence spokesman responds to speculation about VP's eye

You probably saw something a little off about Pence's noticeably red left eye tonight.

Some online commentators speculated that he has pinkeye, which can sometimes be a symptom of Covid-19.

Pence's press secretary, Devin O'Malley, said that the VP tested negative today with a rapid antigen test and that he tested negative Tuesday with a PCR, adding that any speculation that the vice president has the coronavirus is "completely reckless" and incorrect.

782d ago / 3:03 AM UTC

Fact-check: Pence's baseless claim about voter fraud

"President Trump and I are fighting every day in courthouses to prevent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from changing the rules and creating this universal mail-in voting that will create a massive opportunity for voter fraud," Pence said.

There's no evidence that "universal mail-in voting" would create a "massive opportunity for voter fraud."

Numerous studies have debunked the notion that there is substantial, widespread voter fraud in American elections, whether they are conducted predominantly by mail or otherwise. The voter fraud commission that Pence himself chaired failed to find substantive evidence of voter fraud in the U.S.

Both campaigns are in court litigating over the specifics of how mail-n voting works, but in court filings the Trump campaign is reported to have struggled to prove that mail-in voting creates opportunities for fraud.

Pence's use of the term "universal mail-in voting" is misleading, too, because every state is handling mail-in voting differently, mostly by expanding their absentee voting systems to accommodate more people than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The five states that already voted almost entirely by mail before the pandemic do not report higher rates of fraud or coercion than states that vote in person mostly at polling sites, and there are numerous systems and methods that keep mail voting secure.

Election authorities say that when rare incidents of fraud do occur — as in a local New Jersey election in May that saw an attempted fraud operation, for example —  they are referred for prosecution.

782d ago / 3:02 AM UTC
782d ago / 2:56 AM UTC

Fact-check: Pence again falsely accuses Obama admin of 'spying' on 2016 Trump campaign


Pence repeated a false claim that Trump made during the first presidential debate — accusing the Obama administration of spying on their 2016 campaign. 

We checked this during the first debate, and it is false. 

"When Joe Biden was vice president of the United States, the FBI actually spied on President Trump and my campaign," Pence said. 

A review conducted by the Justice Department's own watchdog found in December that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — an inquiry that deeply touched the 2016 Trump campaign — was justified.

The 434-page report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz raised questions about the FBI's use of confidential human sources to gather information from individual members of the Trump campaign. FBI officials said it was a normal investigative technique, but the inspector general questioned whether there should be special guidelines when it comes to political campaigns.

The report did, however, clearly refute the notion that the FBI placed a "spy" in the Trump campaign.

"We found no evidence," the report said, that the FBI sent any confidential sources to join the Trump campaign, sent them to campaign offices or events or tasked them with reporting on the Trump campaign. 

The inspector general said he examined more than a million documents and interviewed more than 100 witnesses to reach the report's conclusions. 

Pence also pointed to documents released this week by the director of national intelligence saying the CIA "made a referral to the FBI documenting that those allegations were coming from the Hillary Clinton campaign." 

The document, released by National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe, claimed that intelligence agencies "obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging" that Clinton's campaign had a plan to "stir up a scandal against" Trump by "tying him to Putin and the Russians' hacking of the Democratic National Committee."

Ratcliffe didn't declassify much else related to that accusation, and a former top intelligence official has accused him of having selectively released information to play politics. 

782d ago / 2:52 AM UTC

Harris: Biden has a 'history of lifting people up'

Harris got the last answer of the night, in response to a question from an eighth grader about how Americans are supposed to get along in a time of such division. She said Biden has a "history of lifting people up."

"One of the reasons that Joe decided to run for president is after Charlottesville ... it so troubled him and upset him, like it did all of us, that there was that kind of hate and division," she said, adding that Biden decided to run because of all of the division and hate that have erupted over the last four years.

"Joe has a long-standing reputation of working across the aisle, working in a bipartisan way," she said. "That's what he's going to do as president. Joe Biden has a history of lifting people up and fighting for their dignity."

782d ago / 2:45 AM UTC

Moderator ends debate as it started — with a touch of civility

Moderator Susan Page ended the debate wishing the president and the first lady speedy recoveries from Covid-19 and extended the same well-wishes to the millions of other people who are battling the coronavirus. 

Page began the debate with the same message and helped set a more civil tone than that of the chaotic presidential debate last week. 

The second presidential debate is next week in Miami. It is town hall-style format, and, as of now, both Biden and Trump are expected to participate in person.

782d ago / 2:42 AM UTC

Harris attacks Trump comments on white supremacists, Pence goes after her record as AG

Harris brought up Trump's comments on white supremacy during the presidential debate last week. 

“Not true,” Pence quickly muttered. 

“Then he said, when pressed, ‘stand back, stand by,’ and this is a part of a pattern of Donald Trump’s. He called Mexicans rapists and criminals. He instituted as his first act a Muslim ban,” Harris said. 

Pence then questioned how Harris could say those things when Trump has Jewish grandchildren, a point that many on Twitter took issue with.

The vice president also attacked Harris’ career in California, arguing that she did nothing on criminal justice reform as attorney general of the state and district attorney in San Francisco. Harris defended her record, noting that the state introduced racial bias training and was the first to require that police wear body cameras.

782d ago / 2:42 AM UTC

Biden's campaign wastes no time

782d ago / 2:39 AM UTC

Where the candidates landed on attacks, interruptions and topics

782d ago / 2:36 AM UTC

Harris points out lack of Black judicial appointees under Trump

Harris didn't say whether a Biden administration would expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court. But she did bring attention to the lack of diversity among Trump's judicial appointees. In a July analysis, the Pew Research Center found that Trump was more likely than other recent president to appoint judges who are white.

782d ago / 2:36 AM UTC

Fact-check: Do Biden and Harris support 'abortion up to the moment of birth'?

"Joe Biden and Kamala Harris support taxpayer funding of abortion up to the moment of birth," Pence claimed, repeating an attack he used at the Republican National Convention. 

That is misleading. Biden supports abortion rights, and elective abortions do not occur "up until the moment of birth." Just 1.2 percent occur after 21 weeks of gestation, according to the latest data. 

Biden does, however, support government funding's being used for abortions. In 2019, he reversed his long-standing support of the Hyde Amendment, which stops federal funding — including Medicaid — from being used to pay for abortions. Biden says he changed his mind because the amendment made it harder for lower-income women and women of color to get access to abortions.

782d ago / 2:30 AM UTC

Fact check: Pence says Trump 'cut taxes across the board'


This claim from Pence a bit earlier is true, but he’s leaving out key details when he emphasized the gains made by "hard-working, blue-collar Americans.”

Yes, working families likely did get a modest tax cut in the tax reform Trump signed into law in 2017, but the biggest beneficiaries of the tax bill are corporations, which have permanent cuts while individual tax cuts expire in 2025.

782d ago / 2:30 AM UTC

Fact check: Did Harris co-sponsor Green New Deal, and does Biden support it?

The Green New Deal came up frequently during the debate, with Pence pointing out that Harris was “the first Senate co-sponsor of the Green New Deal” and that the proposal “is on their campaign website.”

These claims are both true.

The Green New Deal is an ambitious and comprehensive environmental justice policy plan supported by progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. In her capacity as California’s junior senator, Harris was a co-sponsor of the original bill. 

And while Biden doesn't explicitly support the Green New Deal, his own plans borrow very heavily from it — making his aggressive denials ring false.

Over the summer, Biden released a $2 trillion plan that emphasized building new energy-efficient infrastructure projects and cutting fossil fuel emissions. 

Under his plan, Biden would, if elected, increase clean energy use in various areas (including transportation, electricity and buildings) and have the U.S. achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. The plan would also create 10 million clean energy jobs, according to his campaign website, with a focus on renewable energy, small nuclear reactors and grid energy storage, among other initiatives.

Biden's plans adopt many of the same pillars of the Green New Deal. And as Pence noted, one of his campaign documents even says, "Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face." Biden's plans would, however, omit some of the Green New Deal's more controversial elements, such as "Medicare for All," a federal jobs guarantee and a strict zero-carbon emissions mandate.

782d ago / 2:29 AM UTC

Breonna Taylor focus of question about racial inequality

The death of Breonna Taylor, the Black woman who was killed in March during a police raid at her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, became a focal point of tonight's debate.

When asked whether justice was served after none of the officers involved were indicted in direct connection with Taylor's death, Harris said it was not, and she talked broadly about systematic racism in the country and the justice system, including the death of George Floyd. 

Harris said Taylor's family deserves justice. She also said Floyd was "tortured and killed," and she talked about the peaceful protests across the country sparked by his death, which pre-empted Pence's rebuttal about some of the violence and rioting that took place. The vice president also did not say justice was served in Taylor's case. 

"Our heart breaks for the loss of any innocent American life," Pence said. "And the family of Breonna Taylor has our sympathies. But I trust our justice system."

782d ago / 2:26 AM UTC

Fly lands on Pence's head and Twitter explodes

782d ago / 2:25 AM UTC

Pence touts China travel ‘ban’

Pence repeatedly pointed to the Trump administration’s “ban” on travel from China as evidence of the government’s early actions to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but his argument exaggerates the strictness of the travel restrictions.

The restrictions took effect Feb. 2, but travel to the U.S. from Hong Kong and Macao, both Chinese special administrative regions, was allowed to continue. The measure also wasn’t a blanket ban, but rather barred entry to the U.S. to foreign nationals who had traveled to China in the past 14 days.

It’s estimated that thousands of travelers arrived in the U.S. from China even after the travel restrictions were put in place. The measure was also imposed about a month after China first announced the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, which experts have said likely means the virus was already spreading to other parts of the world.

782d ago / 2:23 AM UTC

Pence's nonanswer on abortion raises eyebrows

Asked a direct question about what he'd want his home state of Indiana to do if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Pence dodged. Pence's stance on the issue has been clear for years — he's a staunch opponent of abortion rights. 

Yet, he seemed reticent to address that topic, even though Trump has repeatedly made the subject part of his attacks on Biden and Harris

782d ago / 2:23 AM UTC

Fact check: Did Harris attack a judicial nominee for being a member of Knights of Columbus?

Pence accused Harris of having "attacked" a judicial nominee "because they were a member of the Catholic Knights of Columbus, just because the Knights of Columbus holds pro-life views." 

In December 2018, Harris asked pointed written questions to a judicial nominee about stances the Catholic group Knights of Columbus has held on abortion and same-sex marriage — beliefs shared by many conservative Catholics.

On a written questionnaire for Brian C. Buescher, who was nominated to serve on the U.S District Court in the District of Nebraska, Harris asked about beliefs held by the group, which she described as “an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men.”

“Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?” she asked in one question.

“Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed marriage equality when you joined the organization?” she asked in another.

In his written responses, Buescher replied that he joined the organization when he was 18 years old and did not recall if the group had taken a position on either issue at that time.

“My membership has involved participation in charitable and community events in local Catholic parishes,” he said.

Buescher also added that he was not involved in the group’s policymaking.  

“I have not been involved with drafting policies or positions on behalf of the Knights of Columbus, nor have I been involved in making decisions regarding the activities of the national or international organization,” he said.

Harris was not the only Democrat on the committee to ask about the Knights of Columbus; Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also pursued a similar line of questioning to the same nominee.

782d ago / 2:22 AM UTC

Fact check: Was Harris 2019’s ‘most liberal member’ of the Senate?

“Newsweek magazine said that Kamala Harris was the most liberal member of the United States Senate in 2019 — more liberal than Bernie Sanders, more liberal than any of the others in the United States Senate,” Pence said.

The vice president got the ranker wrong here. Newsweek didn’t rank members, though the magazine did report on the website GovTrack’s ranking. That website did rank Harris as having the most liberal ideology in 2019, based on analysis of the bills she sponsored with other members, not by reviewing or ranking her individual ideology on the issues.

It's worth noting that over a longer period of time — from 2015 to 2020, for example — Sanders is ranked as more liberal.

782d ago / 2:21 AM UTC

Harris doesn't say whether she and Biden support packing the Supreme Court

Pence accused Biden and Harris of wanting to "pack the court" if they're elected, which means to add more seats to the Supreme Court. 

Asked whether they would seek to do so, Harris didn't directly answer. 

"The American people are voting right now, and it should be their decision about who will serve on this most important body for a lifetime," she said. 

"I just want the record to reflect she never answered the question," Pence said as they moved on to the next topic.

782d ago / 2:19 AM UTC

Trump leads mentions, followed by Covid. Here's the breakdown.

What's being talked about the most at the debate tonight? We're breaking it down mention-by-mention. (As of 10:15 p.m.)

Trump: 649 mentions

Covid-19: 595

Economy: 428

Supreme Court: 282

Foreign policy: 237

Biden: 235

Climate change: 178

Vice President: 120

Tax reform: 118

Health care: 108

Race: 95

China: 45

Abortion: 43

Election: 37

782d ago / 2:18 AM UTC

Fact check: Pence says a Covid-19 vaccine could be rolled out by end of year

This claim, which Pence made a bit earlier on in the debate, is true. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration released guidelines for Covid-19 vaccine makers, stating that the companies would need to track tens of thousands of study participants for at least two months to look for any possible safety issues before the agency would consider authorization.

Given the timeline of when phase 3 clinical trials began, the new guidance indicates that the earliest a Covid-19 vaccine might get an emergency use authorization would be the end of November. At the same time, drug companies are manufacturing doses of their vaccines so that they will be ready to go if they receive authorization. One company, Moderna, says it is on track to produce 20 million doses by the end of the year, according to CNBC

Later, Pence said that five vaccines have entered phase 3 trials in the U.S. He's off by one. Only four have made it to phase 3 so far: Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca. However, the AstraZeneca trial is currently paused in the U.S., following reports of an adverse event in a U.K. participant.

782d ago / 2:17 AM UTC

Women react to Harris being interrupted by Pence

Women on Twitter are reacting to Harris being interrupted by Pence, identifying with being talked over by a man.

782d ago / 2:16 AM UTC
782d ago / 2:15 AM UTC

Harris calls out Pence for 'insulting' attack on her and Biden's faith

The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court veered off into talk of religious liberty and faith. Pence suggested that the opposition to Barrett is based on hostility to her faith. 

Harris shot back, noting that Biden would be only the second practicing Catholic president if elected (after JFK). It's an interesting rebuttal, because Pence has often talked openly and unapologetically about his faith to draw a contrast with Democrats' support for policies such as same-sex marriage and abortion. 

"Joe and I are both people of faith, and it is insulting to suggest we do not respect faith," she said. 

782d ago / 2:15 AM UTC
782d ago / 2:14 AM UTC

Harris calls out Trump’s reported derision of the American armed forces

Harris called out the reporting that Trump referred to members of the armed forces as “suckers” and “losers.” 

But she didn’t only hit on that moment, referring to the counterattack Iran made on American soldiers in Iraq in which service members experienced traumatic brain injuries. Trump reportedly described their pain as “headaches.” She also mentioned that Trump said Sen. John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, didn’t deserve to be called a war hero because he was a prisoner of war.

The toughest hit, however, came at the end when she brought up that Russia had allegedly put bounties on the heads of American soldiers in the Middle East — going so far as to define what “bounty” means — and noted that the president had spoken to Putin six times and never brought up the issue.

“Joe Biden would never do that,” she said. “Joe Biden would hold Russia to account.”

782d ago / 2:14 AM UTC

Fact check: Manufacturing job losses under Obama, Trump


Pence and Harris just sparred over manufacturing job losses during the Obama and Trump administrations. 

Harris claimed that because of Trump's "so-called 'trade war with China," America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs. 

And Pence said that "when Joe Biden was vice president, we lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs." 

Harris' estimate comes from a 2019 analysis by Moody's Analytics, which says that "since it began in earnest ... the trade war with China has cost an estimated 0.3 percentage point in U.S. real GDP and almost 300,000 jobs."

The number is a moving target because it's unclear how Trump's posture with China will turn out, while the Obama-Biden record has been written, but that was the estimate as of late 2019, before the coronavirus upended the American economy. Manufacturing jobs did grow overall under the Trump administration by about 483,000 between January 2017 and February 2020, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. But the pandemic has turned that trend around — through September 2020, there's been a net of 164,000 jobs lost during the Trump administration.

Pence's claim is true, too, by the numbers. But there's a bit more to the story. 

When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States was about 12.56 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By January 2017, that number was 12.37 million. 

That means there were about 192,000 jobs fewer manufacturing jobs when Obama left office than when he became president. But it wasn’t a decline in a straight line. Manufacturing jobs were already plummeting when Obama took office, and they fell by another 1.1 million until March 2010, when they started to rebound. 

The Obama White House argued in 2016 that, because Obama had inherited an economy in freefall, the administration should be judged instead by how many manufacturing jobs were added between the low point of the recession to the end of his presidency, about 900,000 jobs. 

When the Obama administration made that argument in 2016, though, other fact-checkers dinged it as “cherry-picking” the data.

782d ago / 2:11 AM UTC

Harris pivots to push talking points

A few times tonight Harris has pivoted hard in the middle of her answers, linking together relatively disparate topics to hit on points she's clearly looking to make stick.

In the midst of an answer on abortion, Harris links the topic to women's health — and then back to the Affordable Care Act, revisiting a point she hit earlier.

782d ago / 2:10 AM UTC

Page shuts Pence down after he refuses to follow debate rules

Moderator Susan Page shut Pence down after he refused to cede time and continued to speak after his time was up, saying that he was not adhering to the rules agreed to by the Trump campaign. 

“I really have to respond to this,” Pence said as he responded to Harris about Trump’s leadership as commander in chief. Page gave him 15 seconds, but he tried to continue. 

“Joe Biden … ” Pence said. 

“Your campaigns agreed to the rules for tonight with the Commission on Presidential Debates," Page said. "I'm here to enforce them, which involves moving from one topic to another, giving roughly equal time to both of you, which is what I'm trying very hard to do. So I want to go ahead and move to the next topic, which is an important one, as the last topic was, and that is the Supreme Court.”

782d ago / 2:10 AM UTC

Fact check: Did the Trump-Pence White House scrub references to 'climate change' from websites?

Harris, during an exchange about climate change, claimed the Trump-Pence administration “took the word ‘science’ off the website” and “took the phrase ‘climate change’ off the website.”

The latter claim is true, the former one is not. 

Harris' claim appears to reference reports from 2018corroborated at the time by NBC News — that references to climate change, greenhouse gases and clean energy were scrubbed from U.S. government websites, including ones under the banners of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the State Department.

782d ago / 2:08 AM UTC

Attacks and interruptions grow

Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence have racked up a total of 125 attacks and 17 interruptions during the vice presidential debate as of 10 p.m.

782d ago / 2:07 AM UTC

Fact check: Would a Biden administration ban fracking, as Pence claims?

Pence claimed repeatedly that Biden and his vice president will, if elected, ban fracking. 

Harris voiced support for banning fracking when she was running for president, but Biden has not — though his position is complicated.  

Biden has repeatedly said he will not ban fracking; the policies he has released only call for no new fracking on federal lands. His policy also allows for existing fracking on federal lands to continue, and existing and new fracking on privately owned land to continue.

Biden, however, has also called for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — a plan that would include a systematic departure from the use of fossil fuels, which has implications for fracking. Biden hasn’t explicitly said how or when that move away from fossil fuels would affect fracking, but Trump has used the proposal to tell audiences, inaccurately, that his opponent wants to ban fracking now.

Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is a practice used to tap into natural gas reserves deep below the earth's surface. It’s a critical issue in states like the battleground of Pennsylvania, where the practice has brought economic prosperity to several once-impoverished areas. It is controversial because many of the chemicals used in the process are toxic to humans and have been known to cause serious health problems in populations near fracking fields.

782d ago / 2:06 AM UTC

Harris addresses Kayla Mueller's parents, who are in the audience tonight

After Pence criticized Biden and Obama for their response to international terrorism, specifically ISIS, Harris gave condolences to the family of Kayla Mueller who was killed by ISIS members.

Her parents are his guests at tonight’s debate, in an attempt to focus on terrorism and draw a contrast with Biden. Mueller was killed by ISIS in 2015, when Obama was president.

Harris told the family she was sorry for what happened and, with her voice cracking, offered condolences for what happened. It was one of the few emotional moments so far during the debate. 

782d ago / 2:04 AM UTC

This is who's talking about Trump more


Vice President Mike Pence has spent twice as long talking about his boss than Sen. Kamala Harris has. Follow along with the latest on debate topics, attacks and interruptions.

782d ago / 2:04 AM UTC

Fact check: Did Obama and Biden leave the national stockpile empty?

"They left the strategic national stockpile empty," Pence claimed.

We’ve fact checked this before, and it is false.

Reporters saw warehouses full of supplies shortly before Trump’s inauguration, and former government officials confirm the stockpile had sizable stores of supplies on hand. 

Those same officials report that while sequestration-related budget cuts did reduce the stockpile’s stores lower than they wanted, the national stockpile was far from empty when Trump took office nearly four years ago. They also told NBC News that they’d left detailed plans for refilling the stockpile and preparing for a potential pandemic — plans they believe were ignored.

782d ago / 2:04 AM UTC

Fact check: W.H. could have done 'everything right' and 200k Americans could have still died

Pence claimed Wednesday that, when it came to taking action to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, medical experts including Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci “said that if we did everything right ... we could lose more than 200,000 Americans.”

While Birx, tapped to serve on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, did say this, subsequent models said that thousands of those deaths would be preventable. 

One widely cited model published in June by scientists at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington showed that about 33,000 American lives would have been saved in the subsequent months if 95 percent of people in the U.S wore masks. 

The model was updated in August to show that, if that level of mask wearing occurred, about 66,000 lives could be saved.

The Trump administration has provided conflicting messaging about mask-wearing over the last five months, which has, in turn, sown confusion, hampered the country's response to the pandemic and led to preventable deaths, public health experts have said. And Trump himself has repeatedly mocked Biden for wearing a mask, including at the presidential debate last month.

Upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed hospital Monday night, Trump even immediately took off his mask to pose for pictures before walking in.

782d ago / 1:58 AM UTC

Pence called Obamacare 'a disaster' but used it to expand Medicaid in Indiana

Pence called Obamacare “a disaster” during Wednesday's debate, “and the American people remember it well,” he added. The White House is now pushing to dismantle the historic health care legislation via the Supreme Court

An interesting attack from Pence, as he used the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, to expand Medicaid when he was governor of Indiana, though it required participants to pay monthly premiums to receive access to health care. 

About 560,000 people in Indiana were slated to receive health care because the Affordable Care Act allowed the state to expand Medicaid, but an analysis by researchers at Indiana University found that some were not able to access health care and coverage rates were lower than neighboring states because of the requirements imposed by Pence.

782d ago / 1:54 AM UTC

Harris, like Biden, tries to speak directly to viewers

Throughout the debate so far, Sen. Harris has spoken into the camera in an effort to speak directly to Americans as Biden did during the presidential debate last week. 

Harris did it, for example, when she was speaking about Trump’s trade war with China, which she said the U.S. has lost. 

“There are estimates that by the end of the term of this administration, they will have lost more jobs than almost any other presidential administration,” said Harris, who turned to the camera, and said, “And the American people know what I'm talking about. You know — I think about 20-year-olds. ... You know, we have a 20-year-old, 20-something-year-old, who are coming out of high school and college right now and you're wondering, is there going to be a job there for me?”