Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House’s Coronavirus task force, came up short in his ability to account for attending a super spreader event last month, inform the American people of the risks of the virus, and devise a comprehensive plan to end the spread of the virus during Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate.
“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration,” Senator Kamala Harris said, pointing out that more than 210,000 Americans have been killed by the virus, 7.6 million Americans have been infected, and one in five small businesses face imminent closure. “This administration has forfeited their right to reflection based on this.”
Pence responded that the President banned travel from China quickly, which he speculated “bought us valuable time and saved hundreds of thousands of American lives.” The majority of early COVID-19 cases on the East Coast came from Europe, not China.
Of the 210,000 Americans who have perished from the disease, Pence said that they will “always be in our hearts” but that it was a “great insult to the American people” to require them to wear masks and assume that they cannot make their own decisions regarding how they choose to live their lives in the midst of a highly communicable disease.
Of his attendance at a Rose Garden event to celebrate President Donald Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court that is thought to have led to an surge in COVID-19 amongst White House staff including the President himself, Pence said that “many of the people at the event were tested for coronavirus,” before adding that “the difference here is that President Trump and I trust the American people to make decisions in the interest in their health.” He did not answer the question about the soundness of the decision to hold the event.
Many of Pence’s answers to questions on the topic appeared to be talking points instead of responses. When asked about whether or not she would be the recipient of a COVID-19 vaccine, Harris said that if it was approved by medical professionals she would be the first in line, to which Pence responded that her “continuous undermining of confidence in the vaccine is intolerable.”
Pence also argued that Biden didn’t adequately deal with the Swine Flu while he was vice president—an entirely different virus that has no relation to COVID-19. Biden was lucky that it wasn’t as deadly, said Pence. Swine flu is estimated to have killed 12,000 people in the U.S. and a vaccine was developed within six months.
More from Fortune’s special report on what business needs from the 2020 election:
- What voters need from the 2020 election: Common ground
- What business needs from the 2020 election
- What Wall Street needs from the 2020 election
- What unemployed Americans need from the 2020 election
- What small-business owners need from the 2020 election
- What restaurants need from the 2020 election
- What unions need from the 2020 election
- What Silicon Valley needs from the 2020 election
- What unbanked Americans need from the 2020 election
- What low-wage workers need from the 2020 election
- What working parents need from the 2020 election
- What the health care industry needs from the 2020 election