The wild claims and questionable statements weren't the only things flying in the room last night when California Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence faced off in the campaign's only vice presidential debate. There was even an actual fly which made an extended cameo on Pence's hair.
For this week's 'Can You Handle The Truth' segment, CapRadio's PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols helped separate fact from fiction.
On Harris and her statements about the current administration's relationship with science and climate change
Harris criticized Pence and the Trump administration for downplaying and denying climate change, near the portion of the debate where the California wildfires came up.
"Do you know that this administration took the word 'science' off the website and then took the phrase 'climate change' off the website?" Harris said.
She's talking about the White House website, and she is correct. PolitiFact has rated similar claims Mostly True.
On COVID-19, Harris made a False claim about President Trump when she said he called the coronavirus "a hoax" back in March. PolitiFact has looked closely at the president's words — and found that he was clearly saying "the politicization" of the virus was the Democrats' "new hoax."
On Pence's statements about COVID-19 preparedness
Pence, at one point, blamed the Obama-Biden administration for leaving an empty cupboard of supplies to fight a pandemic.
"They left the strategic national stockpile empty," Pence said. "They left an empty and hollow plan."
PolitiFact found in one way that Pence has a point: N95 masks were depleted after the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. And experts warned they should have been replenished.
But overall, this is an exaggerated claim that PolitiFact has rated Mostly False in the past. Just a couple months before COVID-19 appeared, the former director of the stockpile described supplies as extensive and put their value at more than $8 billion.
Democrats point out that the Trump administration had three years to replenish anything they felt was needed.
Pence's comment about Harris being the most liberal Democrat in the Senate
This label comes from GovTrack, a nonpartisan group that tracks bills in Congress. They did rank Harris as the "most liberal compared to All Senators," in 2019. They based that on the low share of bipartisan bills she cosponsored.
But the group says this is only one way to measure a senator's politics, and they noted Harris has backed away from some causes such as the 'Abolish ICE' movement. She has also moved away from a fully government-run health care system.
On Harris' record as San Francisco District Attorney
Pence claimed that after Harris left her job as San Francisco DA, that African-Americans were 19 times more likely to be prosecuted for minor drug crimes than whites and Latinos.
We are taking a look at that; at this point, PolitiFact doesn't have enough research to say whether that's true or not. But what we do know is that historically, California has disproportionately incarcerated people of color, going back long before Harris was in office.
On Pence having a fly in his hair for a few minutes during the debate
Unfortunately, I can't take credit for that fact check, but yes, it made its cameo for exactly 2 minutes and 3 seconds, creating quite a buzz on social media!
Here is a look at all of PolitiFact's fact checks from the vice presidential debate.
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