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VP debate strikes civil tone after ugly US presidential clash


US Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator from California, Kamala Harris US Vice President Mike Pence Mike Pence (R) participate in the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah on October 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Robyn Beck / AFP

US Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday congratulated Senator Kamala Harris on the historic nature of her candidacy, in a strikingly more civil debate than the nasty presidential face-off just a week ago.

The name-calling, interruptions and attacks that marked the debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, prompted outrage and disgust in the United States and abroad.

Just a week later, Pence spoke directly to 55-year-old Harris and praised her for being the first woman of color on a major party presidential ticket.

“I also want to congratulate you, as I did on that phone call, on the historic nature of your nomination,” said Pence, 61.


A smiling and nodding Harris, who was born in California to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, courteously accepted his words with a “Thank you”.

The scene was a brief interlude of politeness in a bruising campaign that seemed to scrape bottom on September 29 with Trump shouting over moderator Chris Wallace and Biden telling the president: “Will you shut up, man!”

A firm admonishment before the debate in Salt Lake City from moderator Susan Page set an expectation of basic courtesy between the vice presidential candidates.

“We want a debate that is lively. But Americans also deserve a discussion that is civil. These are tumultuous times, but we can and will have a respectful exchange,” Page said.

Moments before Pence offered his congratulations he also thanked the Democratic White House contenders for wishing Trump well after he tested positive for coronavirus.

Pence noted their “expressions of genuine concern.”

The pair even engaged in some of the witty slings that viewers of election debates are slightly more familiar with than the Biden-Trump train wreck.


“Senator Harris you’re entitled to your opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts,” Pence said, quoting deceased Democratic politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Harris listened intently, though social media lit up with snarky comments about an administration that coined the phrase “alternative facts.”

Despite the debate ending without name calling, it was not an entirely sedate affair.

In the opening moments of what was the only face-off between the vice presidential candidates, Harris said Trump’s response to Covid was the “greatest failure” of any US administration.

Pence fired back by accusing Harris of undermining the public faith in any virus vaccine that could become available under Trump.

“I think (that) is unconscionable,” he said with a shake of his head.


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