SALT LAKE CITY (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, praised the performance of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) in the vice presidential debate Wednesday night, while accusing Vice President and former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence of “platitudes and empty rhetoric.”
“In tonight’s debate, Kamala Harris exposed the profound leadership failures of the Trump-Pence administration. Platitudes and empty rhetoric by Mike Pence cannot paper over (President) Donald Trump’s worst transgressions,” the mayor said in a statement. “Kamala Harris is committed to building our economy back better, protecting healthcare access and guaranteeing equity and justice for all Americans.”
The debate was pointed and featured several interruptions from Pence, earning him admonishments from Harris. Both candidates also repeatedly avoided answering questions posed to them, instead choosing to pivot to topics they preferred.
But the exchanges were largely collegial, especially compared to the chaotic nature of the first presidential debate, just eight days ago.
Most notably, Harris and Pence traded accusations over the federal response to the pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 210,000 Americans, with Harris harshly criticizing the administration’s record. President Trump tested positive for the coronavirus just six days ago.
As of Wednesday, Illinois had reported a total of 307,641 COVID-19 cases, including 8,878 deaths.
“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said, with Pence sitting 12 feet away from her, separated by two panes of plexiglass as protection against the virus.
Pence, who again tested negative for the coronavirus earlier in the day, defended the administration’s response and said the president’s moves in the early days of the pandemic saved lives.
“When you say what the American people have done over these last eight months hasn’t worked, that’s a great disservice to the sacrifices the American people have made,” the vice president said. “The reality is, Dr. Fauci said everything that he told the president in the Oval Office the president told the American people.”
The candidates moved on to discussions about a potential vaccine, the economy, climate change, the Supreme Court and more, with Pence advocating for the president’s nominee to the high court and emphasizing his record on trade.
Pence and Harris engaged in sharp exchanges over the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 210,000 Americans.
The candidates moved on to discuss a potential vaccine, the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis, the economy and more. The exchanges have been pointed but largely collegial, especially compared to the chaotic nature of the first presidential debate just eight days ago. Pence went over his allotted time at several points, eventually leading to an admonishment by the moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, to follow the rules agreed upon by both campaigns.
Pence said the Trump administration will “continue to listen to the science” on climate change.
As the South battles devastating hurricanes and the West recovers from deadly wildfires, Pence did not say whether he believes man-made climate change has led to more damaging natural disasters.
“The climate is changing,” Pence said. “The issue is, what’s the cause and what can we do about it?”
The vice president said the progress made on a cleaner environment can be attributed to the free market.
Pence also hit Harris for supporting the Green New Deal, of which she is an original co-sponsor in the Senate.
In response to Pence’s charges, Harris said he and Mr. Trump “don’t believe in science.” She also reiterated that Biden will not ban fracking and will re-enter the U.S. in the Paris Agreement, from which Mr. Trump awithdrew.
Chicago-based company Encyclopedia Britannica posted a link for people to dig into climate change and its global effects.
Both Pence and Harris were also asked to address whether they believe justice was served in the case of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in her Louisville apartment in March. A grand jury in Kentucky indicted one of the officer’s involved for wanton endangerment for firing his gun outside of Taylor’s apartment. None of the three officers involved in the shooting were charged directly.
“I don’t believe so,” Harris said.
Harris, a former prosecutor, said she believes that policing in the U.S. and the criminal justice system should be reformed and called for an end to chokeholds, elimination of private prisons and creation of a national registry for police officers who break the law.
“This is the time for leadership on a tragic, tragic issue,” she said.
While Pence said “our heart breaks for the loss of any American life,” the vice president said he trusts the criminal justice system and condemned violence and looting that has occurred in some cities.
Pence also rejected claims from Harris that there is systemic racism in the criminal justice system, calling it a “great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement.”
CBS News’ Stefan Becket, Kathryn Watson, and Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.