“They knew what was happening, and they didn’t tell you,” said the vice-presidential democratic nominee during the debate. The California senator denounced the White House coronavirus response accusing the Trump administration of covering up the truth about the disease and ineptly addressing the pandemic.
During the 90 minutes Vice Presidential debate, Kamala Harris sharply criticized the Trump administration and accused Vice President Pence is part of a cover-up. She referred to Bob Woodward’s book, where the president reportedly said he knew how harmful and dangerous the virus was but decided not to tell the American people for fear of creating a panic. Harris also pointed out comments made by national security adviser Robert O’Brien to Trump on Jan. 28, calling the coronavirus “the biggest national security threat” he’ll face in his presidency.
When asked by the moderator whether she would take a vaccine Trump says is a cure, Harris said she would not take any vaccine that Trump presented as a cure, but would if scientists endorsed it. In response, Pence accused the California Democratic senator of undermining public confidence in a cure. Public health experts have repeatedly expressed concern that Trump is contributing to rising Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy, as he publicly pushes for a vaccine before Election Day.
The Coronavirus emerged as a hot button issue, as Harris questioned the administration’s credibility on handling the virus. Since January, more than 211 thousand Americans have died, with over 7.6 million people infected. Vice President Pence dodged the issue, saying more people would
have died if Trump had not shut down travel from China. That decision, he said, “brought us invaluable time.”
Pence has played a central role leading the White House coronavirus task force and earned praise from state and local officials for being more attuned to their concerns than Trump or his team. But Pence’s penchant for building consensus and his focus on public perception slowed the response.
Pence attempted to deflect from the administration’s handling of the Coronavirus by bringing up Joe Biden’s response to the swine flu up during the Obama administration and characterizing it as a “failure.” “If the swine flu had been as lethal as the coronavirus in 2009 when Joe Biden was vice president, we would have lost 2 million American lives,” Pence said.
But the diseases are very different. The swine flu didn’t lead to nationwide lockdowns, massive unemployment, and disease so infectious that it’s unclear when Americans will return to their normal lives.
Eight months into the pandemic, cases are still climbing by the tens of thousands. And the White House is struggling to control the spread of the virus within its own ranks less than a week after Trump tested positive. At least 34 people in Trumpworld have been infected, including press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to the president.
In the lead-up to the debate, questions emerged over whether Pence should quarantine. In an attempt to quash concerns, the vice president’s office released a memo from CDC Director Robert Redfield saying his agency concluded it was safe for Pence to participate “from a public health standpoint.”
Earlier this week, the two campaigns fought over whether to erect a plexiglass barrier between the candidates. Pence’s team ultimately yielded, yet some epidemiologists have questioned whether the barrier will make the candidates much safer.
For months, Democrats have viewed the pandemic as a huge weak spot for Trump. According to a CNN poll conducted by independent research company SSRS and released Tuesday, nearly 6 in 10 Americans surveyed believe Joe Biden would handle the pandemic better than the president.