- While much more traditional in scope, Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate was riddled with unanswered questions.
- Both Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) dodged or redirected questions about the U.S. Supreme Court, President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, and potential situations of presidential succession given the ages of both presidential candidates.
- Following last night’s event, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday that the second presidential debate will be virtual. On Fox Business, Trump then said he would refuse to participate in a virtual debate.
A Far More Traditional Debate
Talking about Wednesday’s vice presidential debate would be impossible to do without addressing the elephant in the room — or in this case, the fly on Mike Pence’s head.
The fly, which perched itself upon Pence’s stark white hair for more than two minutes about halfway through the debate, easily stole the show.
But that wasn’t exactly hard. The debate between current VP Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) was aboundingly more traditional than the debate last week between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
“We want a debate that is lively, but Americans also deserve a discussion that is civil,” moderator Susan Page, USA TODAY’s Washington Bureau Chief, said Wednesday in a tongue-in-cheek reference to that debate.
Mostly, both Harris and Pence did exactly what analysts expected. Harris pitched the case for Joe Biden, while Pence used Harris to paint Biden as much more liberal than he actually is.
Main Theme: Unanswered Questions
Like any traditional debate, unanswered questions took center stage.
In one of her first questions, Page asked Pence — the head of the Coronavirus Task Force — why the U.S. death rate for COVID-19 was higher than almost every other country.
Instead of answering why 210,000 Americans have died under the Trump Administration’s watch, Pence did what almost every political analyst expected he would do: He redirected the question and emphasized Trump’s move to restrict what he described as “all travel” from China in February.
But that’s not exactly true. While Trump did restrict travel, he didn’t outright ban it. There were still a lot of people this rule didn’t apply to.
Pence then went on to insult Joe Biden, accusing him of calling the restrictions “xenophobic,” a point Pence came back to a few times throughout the night. That’s largely false. Yes, Biden has called Trump xenophobic, but those comments were never a direct reference to the travel restrictions.
At one point, Page noted that both Biden and Trump are the oldest presidential candidates ever. Because of that, she asked Pence and Harris if they’ve had conversations with Trump and Biden, respectively, about presidential disability and succession. Again, neither gave a direct answer to Page’s question, and she did not continue to press it.
The same situation occurred later when Page asked both candidates what they would do if Trump refuses to a peaceful transition of power should he lose the election. Neither candidate actually answered the question. In fact, they mostly continued with the talking points they wanted to hit on.
At one point, Page also asked Pence if he thinks climate change is an existential threat. Rather than answering, he said, “The climate is changing. We’ll follow the science.”
To note, the Trump administration has frequently ignored scientific evidence and even rolled back environmental regulations.
Unanswered Questions About SCOTUS
In one of the most pivotal segments of the night, Page asked about the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination.
During the segment, both Pence and Harris dodged her questions about Roe v. Wade and what should happen in their home states if it’s overturned. Of course, that’s not to say their positions on abortion are a secret. Pence is undeniably pro-life. Harris is staunchly pro-choice.
“Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed?” Pence asked Harris directly during the segment.
In recent weeks, several Democrats have called for adding more justices to the SCOTUS bench if the Senate pushes through Barrett’s confirmation ahead of the election. For his part, Biden has not addressed the issue.
Like Biden, Wednesday night, Harris did the same, quickly redirecting the question back to Pence in what arguably became the most contentious moment of the debate.
“Let’s talk about packing—” Harris said.
“You, once again, gave a non-answer,” Pence interrupted. “Joe Biden gave a non-answer.”
“I’m trying to answer you now.” Harris said.
“You know the people deserve a straight answer,” Pence said, “and if you haven’t figured it out yet, the straight answer is they are going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election.”
“I’ve witnessed the appointments for lifetime appointments to the federal courts, district courts, courts of appeal, people who are purely ideological, people who have been reviewed by legal professional organizations and found who have been not competent or substandard,” Harris said several exchanges later.
“And do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the court of appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is black? This is what they’ve been doing. You want to talk about packing a court? Let’s have that discussion.”
Second Presidential Debate to be Virtual
Thursday morning, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the second presidential debate, scheduled for next week, will now be virtual “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved.”
While Biden pretty much immediately hopped on board, on Fox Business, Trump announced that he was pulling out of the debate.
“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” he said. “That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want.”
Trump Campaign Manager Bill Stepien added that Trump will now hold a rally instead.
According to the co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, federal election laws forbid the hosting of a solo debate.
Despite Trump seemingly pulling the plug on this debate, there is precedent for virtual presidential debates. In 1960, both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon debated remotely on opposite ends of the country.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The New York Times) (ABC News)
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Trump Shares Doctored Video of Biden Which Replaces “Despacito” With N.W.A’s “F*** Tha Police”
- President Donald Trump shared a doctored video that showed his opponent Joe Biden dancing to “Fuck Tha Police” by N.W.A.
- Twitter flagged it as manipulated media with a warning label that redirects users to the real clip and information about it. Still, the doctored clip has been viewed 4 million times.
- The real video comes from a campaign event Biden held on Tuesday, celebrating the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. The song he actually played was “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, who earlier introduced Biden to the stage.
- Still, Biden’s choice to play the song resulted in backlash from those who thought he was pandering to Hispanic voters. An NBC Marist poll currently shows Trump and Biden neck and neck in Florida, with Trump taking the Hispanic vote in the sought after state.
Trump Shares Doctored Video
President Donald Trump shared a doctored video of his Democratic opponent Joe Biden on Tuesday playing and dancing to “Fuck Tha Police” by N.W.A.
The real video comes from a campaign event Biden held in Florida to celebrate the start of Hispanic Heritage Month on Tuesday. He was actually playing “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, who introduced him.
The doctored video was first posted by The United Spot, a conservative, pro-Trump parody account. Trump shared the video in the early hours of Wednesday morning asking “What is this all about?”
As of Wednesday morning, the clip had been viewed over 4 million times. Twitter added a “manipulated media” label to the post, which directs users to a Twitter events page that shows the real video. It also includes several tweets about what really happened, as well as a post mentioning that the video Trump shared was doctored.
Still, Trump shared the video again later on Wednesday saying “China is drooling, they can’t believe this!”
Trump’s repeated sharing of the fake video is part of his larger effort to center his campaign around law enforcement and to paint Biden as anti-police. Biden has said he does not support movements to defund the police, but this has not stopped Trump from trying to tie the former Vice President to protests and riots against police brutality across the country.
“Fuck Tha Police” has been a divisive song since it was released by N.W.A. in 1988. Over 30 years later, the messages in it remain as relevant as ever, and streams for the song have seen a significant boost since protests against police brutality spread across the country.
Joe Biden Accused of Pandering
But it wasn’t just the doctored version of the clip that drew attention and outrage. The original version had its own wave of backlash as many thought Biden’s choice to play “Despacito” was a cringe-worthy attempt to pander to Hispanic voters.
Fonsi, Eva Longoria, and Ricky Martin all spoke at the event, which was Biden’s first in Florida since he became the Democratic nominee. Some thought his choice to pull out his phone and play the hit song was a nod to Fonsi, but others compared it to comments Clinton made in 2016 about always keeping hot sauce in her bag, or encouraging people to “PokemonGo to the polls.”
Others pointed out the fact that “Despacito” means “slowly,” which plays right into Trump’s “Slow Joe” nickname for Biden.
Getting the Hispanic Vote
This comes amid a tight fight between Biden and Trump for Florida and the Latino vote in the high-stakes state. Some polling shows Biden a hair ahead of Trump in the state, but others show the two neck and neck. An NBC Marist poll has both candidates at 48% and shows Trump doing better amongst Latino voters.
This data actually speaks to a larger issue within the Biden campaign. On a national level, analysis from CNN has found that Trump has increased his standing with Hispanic voters during his four years in office. While he still trails behind Biden, their analysis finds that the former Vice President could win the Hispanic vote by 28 points, compared to Clinton’s 37 point lead in 2016.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Forbes) (Variety)
Reporter’s Account of Her Arrest Clashes With Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Statement
- Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies arrested a reporter named Josie Huang Saturday while she covered protests outside a hospital where two deputies were being treated for gunshot injuries.
- The sheriff’s department claimed Huang approached deputies without identifying herself as a reporter, but footage she took shows that they went up to her and that she identified herself as a reporter multiple times.
- The footage also shows deputies knocking her to the ground as she screamed in pain. She was charged for obstruction and was in custody for five hours.
- Many have condemned LASD for arresting a reporter doing her job and for lying about the circumstances that led to the arrest.
- However, Sheriff Villanueva defended the arrest, saying in “the heat of the moment, that’s what happened.” He also claimed she had a work I.D., not formal press credentials, and that the news agency she worked for is not a “household name.”
Deputies from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department detained reporter Josie Huang on Saturday, claiming she did not identify herself to them while covering a protest. Footage that Huang released, however, paints a much different picture of how her arrest unfolded.
Huang was outside St. Francis Medical Center in the Lynwood neighborhood of L.A. covering a press conference, held by LASD, about two deputies who were shot earlier that night. She heard a commotion and noticed a small gathering of protesters, then began to record their interactions with officers. What happened next varies, depending on whose account you read.
Early on Sunday morning, LASD tweeted a thread saying deputies dispersed a group blocking the emergency entrance and exits of the hospital. One protester refused to comply and was arrested.
“During his arrest, a struggle ensued at which time a female adult ran towards the deputies, ignored repeated commands to stay back as they struggled with the male and interfered with the arrest,” the department’s thread continued. The woman being referenced here is Huang. She and the protester were both arrested for violating obstruction laws.
(3/3) The female adult, who was later identified as a member of the press, did not identify herself as press and later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person. Both individuals have been arrested for 148 P.C.— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) September 13, 2020
LASD claims that Huang did not identify herself as a reporter and did not have credentials on her person. However, she posted a thread of her own later in the day which included footage she took where she can be heard identifying herself as a reporter for KPCC, L.A.’s local NPR station.
In one tweet, she says she had her press I.D. on a lanyard around her neck, which footage from ABC7 confirms. She also posted videos that she took of the protesters and said that in the beginning, no one took issue with her being there.
After the group dispersed, officers continued to follow one man. Huang says she followed from a distance and zoomed in on her phone to capture the encounter. As she approached a squad car, authorities told her to back up. She said she had nowhere to go and was quickly shoved around by officers.
The footage then showed her point of view as she was toppled to the ground, screaming in pain.
“I’m a reporter! I’m with KPCC!” she yelled. The screen eventually goes black, but she can be heard calling for help and repeating that she is a member of the press. Eventually, an officer stepped on her phone while she tells them she is hurt.
Huang wrote that she was put in a patrol car and was in custody for five hours. She says that a deputy refused to uncuff her so that she could put her mask on. She also said that they dismissed bleeding from her foot and withheld a shoe she had lost.
Huang shared another angle of what happened that was taken from across the street. It shows officers tackling her to the ground while she identifies herself and screams.
Outrage and Backlash
This incident has led to outrage from journalists and press organizations across the country. NPR, in particular, asked that the charges against Huang be dropped.
“NPR is appalled by the arrest of Josie Huang, a KPCC public radio reporter, who was performing her job last night—gathering facts to inform the American public,” it said in a statement. “The rights of journalists are protected by the First Amendment, and essential to an informed public and our Democracy.”
The Asian American Journalists Association also released a statement saying that Huang’s arrest serves as a reminder of “the risks that journalists face every day while reporting on the front lines during these uncertain times.”
“We hold LA County Sheriff’s Department accountable to provide answers for the excessive use of force in the detainment of our colleague,” AAJA added. “The Los Angeles Chapter of AAJA demands an investigation and apology for her arrest.”
The L.A. County Inspector General’s office will be investigating LASD’s conduct following the press conference and Huang’s arrest.
“What surprises me the most is that once she was identified as a reporter that they transported her, that they cited her,” Inspector General Max Huntsman told the Los Angeles Times. “Those two incidents are of concern to us because 1st Amendment rights are absolutely critical to the public’s respect of law enforcement. And so we feel that requires immediate investigation.”
On Sunday night, Kerry Carter, Captain of Century Sheriff’s Station tweeted that an investigation into the matter was underway. However, he said he could not comment further. On Monday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva defended the deputies who arrested Huang.
“Ultimately, we realize OK, she could have done things different,” he told KTLA. “[We] could’ve probably done things different. But at the heat of the moment, that’s what happened.”
He also claimed that she had on a work I.D., not press credentials, and that KPCC was “not a household name.”
Deputies Shot in Compton
Huang was at St. Francis to report on two deputies who were undergoing surgery at the hospital after being shot multiple times in Compton. Both were in critical condition at the time. While officials do not currently know what the long term impacts of their wounds will be, they are both expected to recover.
The suspect is still at large and a $100,000 reward is being offered for information that could lead to finding and arresting them. Officers have described the shooting as an ambush. A brief video shared by LASD shows the suspect running up to the officers, firing, and running away.
The shooting garnered national attention. President Donald Trump tweeted that he was sending “love and support” to the deputies’ families and praying for their recovery.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said the shooting was “unconscionable and the perpetrator must be brought to justice.”