Debate Commission Sides with Harris, Institutes New COVID Measures Opposed by Pence Camp


The Commission on Presidential Debates has approved plans for plexiglass to be used to separate Vice President Mike Pence, California Sen. Kamala Harris and the moderator during Wednesday’s vice presidential debate.

“If Sen. Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it,” Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller said, according to Politico.

The decision comes following negotiations over the terms of the debate between Pence’s and Harris’ teams following news Friday that President Donald Trump had contracted COVID-19.

The candidates were already going to be placed 13 feet apart, but the plexiglass barrier was still up for discussion on Monday night.

Top Pence advisers said late Monday night that they did not support plexiglass barriers being used in the debate, The Washington Post reported.

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Commission Co-Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. said the Trump team did not object to the decision but “they didn’t want the vice president surrounded by plexiglass.”

“They don’t want to have him in what looks like a box,” Fahrenkopf said.

Several people on Trump’s team did not wear masks during the presidential debate last week, and some senior members of his administration have announced positive test results.

At least 11 people involved in the setup and staging of the debate also tested positive for the virus.

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Some public health officials have questioned the safety of the vice presidential debate, arguing Pence should be in a 14-day quarantine because he has interacted with Trump.

“The vice-presidential debate is one that if you’re following CDC guidelines, that debate should be virtual,” Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School professor, told The Post.

“It’s not necessarily how many feet away [Pence] is from Kamala Harris. The fact is, he’s going to drive somewhere, fly somewhere. There’s a whole cascade of people that he could be exposing for him to show up on that stage.”

Republican operative and NeverTrumper Doug Heye said Monday that “moving forward” with the debate “is irresponsible.”

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However, Pence aides said the vice president doesn’t need to quarantine because he hasn’t been close to Trump.

Both Harris’ and Pence’s teams have suggested they don’t want to be portrayed as afraid to show up for the debate as a sign of weakness.

Fahrenkopf said the debate commission would continue to trust the presidential candidates’ medical teams in the upcoming debates.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith