The 2020 Vice Presidential Debate

Pamina Yung, Staff Writer

During the vice presidential debate, California Senator Kamala Harris, the first woman of color to participate in a presidential or vice presidential debate, faced off against Vice President Michael Pence in a discussion concerning topics such as climate change, taxes, the Supreme Court, abortion, and healthcare at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

In great contrast to the first presidential debate, in the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7,  the discussion of race was overshadowed by matters of COVID-19 in the U.S. and the economy. 

Moderator Susan Page started the debate by asking Senator Harris what the Biden administration would do in the coming January and February that the Trump administration wouldn’t do to level the increase of COVID-19 cases. Harris brought up Trump, saying the coronavirus was a “hoax” and blamed him and Pence for concealing information about the disease despite acknowledging how dangerous it was. 

Harris accused the two of being incredulous of scientific evidence regarding climate change, stating, “We have seen a pattern with [the Trump] administration, which is [that] they don’t believe in science.”

Page attempted to conciliate Pence’s constant interruptions, but he continued to charge at Harris, telling her, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

He later added, “We will have a vaccine [for COVID-19], we believe, by the end of this year.”

Moving on to the topic of the justice system and recent police brutality, Harris stated, “We need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system.”

On the contrary, Pence said, “But I trust our justice system. There’s no excuse for what happened to George Floyd and justice will be served.” He, like Trump, also denied the existence of systemic racism in America and then averted the topic, saying, “But there’s also no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed.”

However, the debate was not exactly the most civil. Harris interrupted Pence five times throughout the entire debate, and Pence interjected ten times. The moderator cut off Harris 13 times when her time was up and asked Pence to stop talking 41 times.

Harris’ deprecating facial expressions towards Pence during his elaboration on Trump’s and the administration’s response to COVID-19 were joked about in a handful of tweets and described as a “disapproving auntie vibe.”

But the perhaps most viral moment was when a common housefly landed on Pence’s head and perched on it for about two minutes during Pence’s turn to answer the question of whether or not Breonna Taylor’s case was served justice. 

Social media went wild over the incident. Political figures, including Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeted fly jokes and puns while sending messages encouraging people to vote. The late-night live variety show, Saturday Night Live, even made a comedic sketch about it, named “VP Fly Debate Cold Open,” in which Joe Biden, played by Jim Carrey, attempted to teleport to the debate but accidentally became a fly in the process, reenacting Jeff Goldblum’s famous scene from The Fly.

There is to be only one vice presidential debate this election, but we shall see how the points made by Harris and Pence will carry into the next presidential debate.


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