2020 vice presidential debate

By Melissa Macaya, Fernando Alfonso III, Veronica Rocha, Jessica Estepa and Kyle Blaine, CNN

Updated 11:25 a.m. ET, October 8, 2020
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10:51 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Here's the final speaking time tally for the VP debate

At the end of tonight’s debate, Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris ended up with nearly the same amount of speaking time, differing by just a few seconds.

8:03 a.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Harris to Pence on systemic racism: "I will not be lectured"

From CNN's Jasmine Wright and Daniella Diaz

Kamala Harris proclaimed defiantly she will not "be lectured by the vice president” during a back-and-forth on criminal justice where she called the killing of George Floyd “torture.” 

Vice President Mike Pence, responding to Harris’ assertion that there is systemic racism in this country and that Black people don’t feel as though they have the full rights in the system, said, “I must tell you this presumption that you hear consistently from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, that America is systemically racist.”

Harris shot back at Pence, saying, “I will not sit here and be lectured by the vice president, on what it means to enforce the laws of our country. I’m the only one on this stage who has personally prosecuted everything from child sexual assault to homicide,” and went on to describe her record. 

Pence hit her back, parroting the arrest rate for Black men during her tenure as district attorney of San Francisco, along with other accusations.

10:57 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Was there justice for Breonna Taylor? Here's what Pence and Harris said

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris used the death of Breonna Taylor to discuss the issue of police violence plaguing the US.

Taylor was a 26-year-old Black emergency room technician and aspiring nurse in Louisville, Kentucky, who was killed by police on March 13.

Harris called Taylor "a beautiful young woman" whose life was taken "unjustifiably."

"I've talked with Breonna's mother and her family, and her family deserves justice," Harris said. "We're never going to condone violence. But we always must fight for the values that we hold dear, including the fight for our ideals. I'm a former career prosecutor."

She then vowed to immediately ban chokeholds if she and Joe Biden are elected.

"Bad cops are bad for good cops. We need reform of policing in America and our criminal justice system. That's why Joe and I will immediately ban chokeholds and carotid holds," Harris said.

Pence said Taylor's family had his "sympathies." He also referenced the upswell of anti-police sentiment that has blanked the country following the deaths of Taylor and other Black Americans.

"[T]he family of Breonna Taylor has our sympathies. But I trust our justice system," Pence said. "This presumption that you hear from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris that America is systemically racist, and as Joe Biden said, he believes that law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities, it's a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement."

Watch the moment:

10:48 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Pence dodges question on whether Trump will commit to a peaceful transfer of power

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Vice President Mike Pence listens to Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Vice President Mike Pence listens to Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Patrick Semansky/AP

President Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.

Tonight, Vice President Mike Pence got the same question – and gave about the same answer, only in more measured tones.

First, Pence reiterated his confidence that the Republican ticket would be victorious on Election Day and talked up the “movement” behind Trump.

Then he pivoted to a rosy summation of Trump’s record and touted the President’s appointment of conservative judges to the federal bench.

Pence went on to accuse Democrats of trying to effectively steal the 2016 election from Trump, citing the investigation into Russian election interference – and parroting Trump’s familiar declaration that the probe found “no obstruction” and “no collusion.”

From there, it was onto impeachment, which Pence – again echoing Trump, though in a lower register – described as being centered on “a phone call.”

After a Hillary Clinton mention, Pence once again and finally used Trump’s equivocal phrasing, saying, “If we have a free and fair election, we'll have confidence in it. And I know and believe that President Donald Trump will be re-elected for four more years.” 

In short, he didn’t answer the question.

Here's how the question played out:

10:51 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Karen Pence didn't wear a mask on stage after debate

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen Pence appear on stage after the vice presidential debate against Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris a the University of Utah on Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen Pence appear on stage after the vice presidential debate against Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris a the University of Utah on Wednesday in Salt Lake City. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Second lady Karen Pence appeared to break the agreed-upon rules on masks at the vice presidential debate Wednesday evening upon its conclusion.

In the aftermath of the first presidential debate, where some audience members, including the first lady and other Trump family members, removed their masks, the Commission on Presidential Debates mandated that everyone in the audience, with the only exceptions of the candidates and the moderator, wear a mask during future debates.

After the last questions were answers, Pence joined her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, on stage.

Douglas Emhoff joined his wife, Sen. Kamala Harris. Emhoff wore a mask as he stood by Harris. Karen Pence removed her mask.

Pence’s action was another example of the administration flouting its own guidelines on best public health practices and shirking the opportunity to lead on mask wearing.

Pence was present 11 days ago in the White House Rose Garden for an event nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. At least 12 attendees have since tested positive for Covid-19.

Watch:

10:37 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Fact check: Pence's claims about Biden and the Green New Deal

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

Vice President Mike Pence Mike Pence gestures as he speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Vice President Mike Pence Mike Pence gestures as he speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence said during the debate that “while Joe Biden denied the Green New Deal… the Green New Deal is on their campaign website.” 

Facts First: This is true but needs context. Biden's campaign website does say the resolution is a "crucial framework" for addressing climate change, but his own plan differs from it in several ways. In particular, Biden's plan does not include some of the Green New Deal’s proposed economic actions, such as guaranteeing a job for every American.

After lauding the "framework" of the Green New Deal, Biden's campaign webpage on the environment lays out the bullet points of the candidate’s own plan to combat climate change, which includes items like building out energy-efficient infrastructure and setting a goal for the US to reach zero emissions by 2050.

While the two plans overlap on some environmental objectives, Biden's plan does not include many of the social welfare proposals of the Green New Deal. For instance, he is not calling for a guaranteed job for each American with family and medical leave and paid vacations, as the deal proposes.

In other ways, the proposals differ less dramatically. Biden's plan also has a goal of creating a carbon-pollution-free energy sector by 2035, whereas the Green New Deal proposed reaching 100% clean power in 10 years.

For more CNN fact checks, visit our fact check database here

11:02 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Harris embraces prosecutorial record and Pence faults her for it

From CNN's Dan Merica

Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator from California, Kamala Harris gestures as she speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator from California, Kamala Harris gestures as she speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris, who was formerly the Attorney General of California and a top prosecutor in San Francisco, embraced her record as a prosecutor on Wednesday night, leading Vice President Mike Pence to quickly accuse her for not doing enough on criminal justice reform.

The fight highlights an issue that has faced the Trump campaign: Attacking Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Harris for being too soft on crime, while also faulting the former California senator for being too hard on crime during her time as a law enforcement official in the state.

“I will not sit here and be lectured by the vice president on what it means to enforce the laws of our country,” Harris said after Pence spoke about criminal justice reform, noting that she had prosecuted trials ranging from child sexual assault to homicide.

Harris has struggled with her prosecutorial record ever since she launched her Democratic presidential campaign in 2019, both leaning on it and running away from it during her primary bid. But Harris’ answer on Wednesday night shows how the Biden campaign believes it could help their bid against Trump and Pence.

Pence hit back at Harris’ comment, noting some of the tough on crime efforts Harris oversaw when she was district attorney in San Francisco and attorney general of California.

“Your record speaks for itself,” Pence said. “President Trump and I have fought for criminal justice reform. … And we will do it for four more years.”

10:31 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Fact check: Pence's claim that the Biden campaign wants to "ban fracking"

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Justin Sullivan/Pool/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence claimed during tonight's debate that the Biden campaign wants to “ban fracking.” 

Facts First: This is misleading. Joe Biden is not running on a proposal to completely ban fracking (hydraulic fracturing, a drilling method used to extract natural gas or oil). However, there is at least some basis for Pence’s claim: During the Democratic primary, Biden sometimes suggested he was proposing to get rid of all fracking. He's also pledged to "establish an enforcement mechanism to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050," which would almost certainly require a significant reduction in fracking.

Biden's written plan never included a full ban on fracking; rather, it proposes "banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters," not ending all new fracking anywhere or ending all existing fracking on public lands and waters. Biden has explicitly said he does not support a nationwide fracking ban (though in part because he doesn't believe such a ban would pass).

Biden created confusion about his stance with some of his comments during the Democratic primary. For example, he had this exchange with CNN's Dana Bash during a July 2019 debate:

Bash: "Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Just to clarify, would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?"
Biden: "No, we would — we would work it out. We would make sure it's eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, either — any fossil fuel."

Could a president even ban fracking alone? No.

Without an act of Congress, the president could not issue an outright ban on fracking across the US. There are, however, a number of regulatory and executive actions an administration could take to prevent or shrink the use of fracking technology, particularly on federal land. However, most fracking takes place on private land, and any attempts to limit it would likely face legal challenges.

For more CNN fact checks, visit our fact check database here

10:33 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Fact check: Pence claims that the Obama administration "left the Strategic National Stockpile empty"

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

Vice President Mike Pence claimed at tonight's debate that the Obama administration "left the Strategic National Stockpile empty" 

Facts First: This is misleading. 

The Strategic National Stockpile was not empty before the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the stockpile contains enough smallpox vaccines for every American, among other medical resources.  

While Trump isn't wrong to suggest he inherited a depleted stockpile of some medical supplies — the stockpile of masks, for example, was drained and not replenished by the Obama administration — it was not completely empty; he inherited significant quantities of other supplies. Congress repeatedly did not pay for the stockpile to be replenished. And Trump had three years in office to build depleted stockpiles back up. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services also confirmed to CNN in late June that there had been about 19,000 ventilators in the national stockpile for “many years,” including 16,660 ventilators that were ready for immediate use in March 2020; the spokesperson confirmed that none of those 16,660 were purchased by the Trump administration.  

You can read a longer fact check here. 

For more CNN fact checks, visit our fact check database here