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CLEAN UP on Aisle VP: NBC Trashes Pence as Evasive, Sexist Against ‘Deft’ Harris



Wednesday night after the 2020 vice presidential debate, NBC largely became a team of Baghdad Bobs, full of dismay and liberal partisanship to cheer and defend Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) as “deft” and having found “her sea legs.” In contrast, they lamented that Harris had to face someone so evasive and sexist like Vice President Mike Pence.

After acknowledging the debate wasn’t a cage match like the first Trump-Biden tangle, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd boasted: “Harris got off to a little bit of a slow start, but I thought she really got her sea legs, got comfortable, and got strong and look, Mike Pence did a lot of evading and deflection.”

 

 

He added that while “some in the Trump campaign who are going to be pleased with how he deflected and how he has evaded,” others will be “frustrated about the constant amount of time that Mike Pence avoided answering a direct question.” 

Overall, he accused Pence (and not Harris) of having avoided “details” and “deflect[ed] some of these attacks” to the point that “the evasion” might have “started to wear thin with some viewers.”

Swamp denizen Andrea Mitchell was an unabashed Harris fan, fawning over how she “really did warm up and hit her points on white supremacy, on climate, certainly on COVID, pre-existing conditions” along with having “managed to get through and speak directly to the camera and was a very effective debater.”

As for Pence, she complained that he was “an artful dodge” in not “respond[ing] to the failures of the coronavirus task force that he leads, which have been very well documented by insiders, by the audio tapes by Bob Woodward.”

Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt was also enthused, praising Harris for having spoken directly into the camera and took Harris’s spin about health care as 100 percent fact.

Hunt continued (click “expand”): 

HUNT: Kamala Harris with a smile pushed back on Mike Pence’s repeated talking over time and interrupting her. She was sort of very deft and — and careful to when she said, hey, you’re interrupting me, it’s — it’s my turn to speak, she was careful about it in the style in which she did that seemed practiced but also familiar to those of us who covered her on Capitol Hill. It’s one of the ways she’s effective in this way. 

GUTHRIE: But Kasie, feels like she got more time, though. We’ll find out, but it seemed like by him going over, doing — taking that different tact, he might have gotten more air time. 

HUNT: I think it’s entirely possible. We’ve already seen pressure on Susan Page as the moderator who struggled to push back against Pence and kept repeatedly saying thank you, Mr. Vice President, thank you. And I think you saw Harris as the debate went on start to interject herself more and say, no, I am going to take the time that I have for myself, thank you very much. 

Like her colleagues, Hunt touched on the Supreme Court and Harris’s refusal to give a yes or no question on court-packing, but like her cohorts, Hunt minimized and dismissed it because “Pence repeatedly decline[d] to answer the questions that the moderator put to him.”

Following a balanced panel with Hugh Hewitt and David Plouffe, chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson also took note of Harris speaking directly into the camera, offering no critical analysis of her substance.

The fact-checking came after a commercial break and, not surprising, NBC medical expert Dr. John Torres and the ethically-challenged Stephanie Ruhle only fact-checked Pence on the coroanvirus and the economy with not a single condemnation or examination of something Harris said (such her claim Trump called the virus a “hoax” or Biden’s position on fracking).

Before signing off, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt brought in presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who shilled for Harris by suggesting Pence would be remembered in context of the debate as having been sexist because “[h]e kept interrupting his moderator, a woman, and his opponent, a woman” and “[s]ome may feel that that showed lack of respect.”

Holt replied in agreement: “Yeah, that will be something we see play out in the next day or two.”

In contrast, NBC saw no issue with Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine’s interrupts of Pence during the 2016 VP debate. If liberals didn’t have double standards, they wouldn’t have any standards at all.

NBC’s shameless love affair for Harris was made possible by supportive advertisers such as Prevagen, Progressive, and Volkswagen. Follow the links to the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.

To see the relevant transcript from October 7, click “expand.”

NBC’s 2020 Vice Presidential Debate: NBC News Special
October 7, 2020
10:33 p.m. Eastern

LESTER HOLT: Fair to say a lot of people holding their breath after last week, wondering what the tone would be in this debate. Largely civil, Savannah Guthrie. It’s not without its moments but we certainly got a chance this time to hear from both of them and take a measure and question, perhaps, right now not who won or lost but who did what they had to do under the circumstances. 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, tonight we had a debate as opposed to a debacle and for that I think a lot of Americans are breathing a sigh of relief. A lot of different topics covered. And it was mostly civil. There was some back and forth, but substance was discussed. COVID was discussed. The Supreme Court, lot of talk about manufacturing and jobs, a real tell that this battleground, this campaign, is being fought in the industrial Midwest. I want to bring in Chuck Todd. Chuck, as you watched tonight, and Lester’s question is spot-on, you know, who — who did what they had to do? And did they both do what they had to do? 

CHUCK TODD: Well, I can’t mean to do a copout here but that’s what I was going to land is they — you could tell they both sort of had a game plan and I think they both executed their game plan. The question is whether it’s going to move the needle at all. I mean, if you want to get into, you know, did I — I thought Kamala Harris got off to a little bit of a slow start, but I thought she really got her sea legs, got comfortable, and got strong. And look, Mike Pence did a lot of evading and deflection. He was dealt a tough hand as we said at the beginning with the virus, where things are and, look, I think there are some in the Trump campaign who are going to be pleased with how he deflected and how he has evaded. And there are going to be some people who are frustrated about the constant amount of time that Mike Pence avoided answering a direct question. Now, there is a direct question issue for Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. It is, one, that they don’t want to deal with, which is the Supreme Court question about expanding it, but that was one thing that jumped out at me at this debate was, again, it was clear that was Mike Pence’s plan, deflect some of these attacks, don’t get bogged down in the details, but I wonder if the evasion started to wear thin with some viewers. 

HOLT: Let me go to Andrea Mitchell. I know you were feverishly taking notes. What stood out to you, Andrea? 

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, I think that Kamala Harris really did warm up and hit her points on white supremacy, on climate, certainly on COVID, pre-existing conditions. She managed to get through and speak directly to the camera and was a very effective debater. Mike Pence was effective in defending President Trump and dodging the questions, an artful dodge, if you will, because he didn’t respond to the failures of the coronavirus task force that he leads, which have been very well documented by insiders, by the audio tapes by Bob Woodward. He basically said — accused her of attacking the American people for their response to the pandemic. But, you know, if you’re a supporter of the Trump/Pence agenda, you believe that he did a very good job and he certainly filled the time and got a lot more time by talking over the time limits and Susan Page, I think, did a really good job of trying to hold them to a format. 

GUTHRIE: Chuck, I also thought that Mike Pence did — landed punches but unlike his boss did it with a velvet glove, so that, you know, it was different style but he certainly took it to the Biden/Harris team.

TODD: No, I agree and that’s what he does well. And — and — and it’s when he was at his most effective. It was what was, in fact, he was very effective at almost avoiding a question, avoiding a response, and then just going right back on offense trying to land a policy hit. So, look, I agree with that. I think he did best when he was talking about Biden’s record. Where he struggled is when he was having to defend the Trump record. And I think that was — that was — I think with Kamala Harris, I would argue that, I think, she struggled at times trying to defend some of Biden’s record, defend the ticket. She was obviously much more comfortable prosecuting a case against the Trump administration. 

HOLT: I’ll tell you one of the things that struck me, I felt like the coronavirus, a lot of the talking points were left on the table, given especially what we’ve seen over the last four, five, days involving the President. I don’t know if anybody else —

TODD: You know, Lester, I had a feeling that — I think — I felt like there was a little bit of egg shell walking on that. I think that — that because of how personal it is, I — I noticed that, too and this was part of me that thought, you know what, they don’t want to go there right now. 

MITCHELL: But I also thought, Lester, that there have been so many things said by the President in the video tonight, in the video when he first came back, not wearing a mask, I was surprise that the that the whole issue of masks didn’t come up because the vice president talked about mandates, but it’s the advice of their own public health officials and their refusal to wear masks and all the things that they’ve been justly criticized for, him taking off the sk when he first came back to the White House. I was surprised that did not come up and that she didn’t score on those points. 

GUTHRIE: Let me bring in Kasie Hunt who, of course, covers Capitol Hill for us. I heard Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, say she texted encouragement to Kamala Harris before the debate and said health care, health care, health care. That is clearly the terrain the Democrats want to run on and Kamala Harris certainly brought it up at every available opportunity. 

KASIE HUNT: She did, Savannah, and that was one of her most direct lines, looking into the camera and saying they’re coming for you, talking about people’s health care and what they are relying on, especially in a pandemic where if, in fact, they were lose coverage of — for pre-existing conditions, so many people who suddenly having the pre-existing condition of having had COVID in the past. But you know, one thing that stuck out to me, Savannah, and as I was listening to the conversation, is, you know, Kamala Harris with a smile pushed back on Mike Pence’s repeated talking over time and interrupting her. She was sort of very deft and — and careful to when she said, hey, you’re interrupting me, it’s — it’s my turn to speak, she was careful about it in the style in which she did that seemed practiced but also familiar to those of us who covered her on Capitol Hill. It’s one of the ways she’s effective in this way. 

GUTHRIE: But Kasie, feels like she got more time, though. We’ll find out, but it seemed like by him going over, doing — taking that different tact, he might have gotten more air time. 

HUNT: I think it’s entirely possible. We’ve already seen pressure on Susan Page as the moderator who struggled to push back against Pence and kept repeatedly saying thank you, Mr. Vice President, thank you. And I think you saw Harris as the debate went on start to interject herself more and say, no, I am going to take the time that I have for myself, thank you very much. I also want to touch on Savannah, too, the Supreme Court. This is another thing that Pence did have a tactical perspective, he actually is the one who asked Kamala Harris about what’s called packing the court, this idea that Democrats, if they control the Senate and the White House, might add justices to the Supreme and Kamala Harris wouldn’t answer that question. She sort of deflected instead and that reflects some tensions in the Democratic Party, that there is pressure from the left to do this and it’s something that makes centrists in the party uncomfortable. So, that was a moment where she struggled to answer a question even though, of course, throughout the night we saw Mike Pence repeatedly decline to answer the questions that the moderator put to him and instead answer in different ways. 

(….)

10:46 p.m. Eastern

GUTHRIE: Let’s go to chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson in Washington, Hallie, we heard from the president earlier before the debate. We know he likes to tweet during the debate. What have you heard from the white house tonight? 

HALLIE JACKSON: He — you know, he tweeted some, Savannah, not as much as what we saw during the vice presidential debate back in 2016 when he was essentially live tweeting it but we know the president was at least from his Twitter account engaged, as he is, of course, isolated in the residence because of his coronavirus diagnoses. Something that, as Lester points out, had been hanging heavily as this backdrop over the debate, but didn’t seem to be as front and center as a focus as much as some people thought it would have been. What’s interesting is Senator Harris working to, as we talked about, prosecute the case against not Mike Pence but against Donald Trump. In many ways, she was speaking past Mike Pence, at President Trump, and to the American people. You saw her implement the strategy Joe Biden did last time around, where she turned to the camera, she’s doing it there, talked right to Americans, tried to make her case on things like health care but largely going after the President’s leadership on a variety of issues, going after, for example, the President’s transparency, focusing on Donald Trump far more than Mike Pence. For his part, what was interesting was the vice president ticking some of the boxes that President Trump did not last week. When it came to issues that are critically important in some of these battleground states like NAFTA, for example, things in the industrial Midwest, like jobs, the economy, the fight against China, as well. These are key talking points for the Vice President and that is what he stuck on today, Savannah. 

(….)

10:52 p.m. Eastern

HOLT: We know that we’re moving quicker to a vaccine than has ever been done before. That’s a given. But are there certain steps that are going to happen regardless that have to happen before it hits market? 

DR. JOHN TORRES: And, Lester, you’re absolutely right. Right now the main thing is to make sure it’s safe and to do that, the FDA just put out new guidance saying they want to wait two months until people get their last vaccine in the trials to make sure it’s safe, but what Vice President Pence didn’t mention there is the fact that they, themselves, are doing a little bit of undermining because the President today tweeted out exactly saying this “new FDA rules make it more difficult for them to speed up vaccines for approval before election day, just another political hit job.” And so what we’re seeing here is on both sides getting accused of doing politics behind the vaccine, instead of doing health behind the vaccine. And like Senator Harris said, you know, she’d take it if doctors said to take it but wouldn’t take it if President Trump said to take it. 

HOLT: Alright, John, thanks. Savannah? 

GUTHRIE: Also standing by were us NBC News senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle. And, as mentioned before, there was a lot of talk that seemed dedicated to convincing voters in the industrial Midwest, manufacturing, fracking, are huge issues. A lot of claims flying back and forth about the economy. What did you take away? 

STEPHANIE RUHLE: Well, let’s start, Mike Pence said President Trump is responsible for the greatest economic turnaround. It wasn’t a turnaround. GDP was basically between two percent and 2.5 percent for both President Obama and President Trump. We had expansion under President Trump because of the corporate tax cut. Now, Mike Pence said that Joe Biden is going to take away that tax cut and raise everyone’s taxes. That’s not true. He is looking to roll back some of the corporate tax cut. Anyone making less than $400,000 a year will stay intact. And one last point, Mike Pence said people now have $2,000, a family of four because of President Trump’s tax cut. They would lose that if it was taken away. Joe Biden is not looking to take that away. That’s the expanded child tax credit that went from $1,000 to $2,000. People would still have that under a Biden presidency.

(….)

10:58 p.m. Eastern

HOLT: Michael, we talk about the second on the ticket doesn’t often move the needle. Did we see anything tonight that makes you think that this will be the exception? 

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Well, I think it’s — it’s almost the dog that did not bark because if history tells us anything, Lester, the central question tonight was does Kamala Harris, the candidate, we haven’t known, facing the biggest audience of her life, did she look and sound like a plausible president and vice president? The answer, at least from my point of view, she sure did. She passed that test. As for Mike Pence, people know him. He kept interrupting his moderator, a woman, and his opponent, a woman. Some may feel that that showed lack of respect. 

HOLT: Yeah, that will be something we see play out in the next day or two. 



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