The Fly and the Eye Dominated the VP Debate

The fly that landed on Mike Pence's head and his unhealthy-looking, pinkish eye got a lot of attention.
October 8, 2020, 3:29am
A fly landed on Vice President Mike Pence's head and stayed awhile during the vice presidential debate with Sen. Kamala Harris on Oct. 7, 2020.​ (Screenshot via ABC News)
A fly landed on Vice President Mike Pence's head and stayed awhile during the vice presidential debate with Sen. Kamala Harris on Oct. 7, 2020. (Screenshot via ABC News)

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Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris debated the fate of America for 90 minutes Wednesday night. But Twitter was abuzz about the fly—and Pence’s eye.

His unhealthy-looking pinkish eye was a clear distraction from a mostly staid debate of well-practiced lines he and Harris lobbed at one another. And the debate was sleepy enough that when a fly perched on Pence’s head for almost two minutes, America was rapt.

The fly got enough attention that Joe Biden’s campaign quickly registered flywillvote.com, which redirects to Democrats’ iwillvote.com voting website.

Vice presidential debates rarely if ever change the course of campaigns, but there were plenty of moments to substantively pick apart. Pence dodged a litany of questions and refused to discuss why the White House didn’t take basic COVID safety precautions before President Trump got the virus. Harris insisted she wouldn’t take a COVID vaccine if Trump pushed it over medical experts’ advice. Both candidates refused to answer basically any questions by moderator Susan Page.

Harris repeatedly sought to pivot back to Trump’s failure to contain COVID.

“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” she said in her opening remarks. “Two hundred and ten thousand dead people in our country—in just the last several months. Over 7 million people have contracted this disease. One in five businesses, closed.”

Later in the evening, Pence tripped up Harris by repeatedly demanding that she say whether Biden would “pack” the Supreme Court with additional justices if Trump and the GOP ram through Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation in the coming weeks.

“When you speak about the Supreme Court, though, I think the American people really deserve an answer, Senator Harris. Will you and Joe Biden pack the court?” he asked.

“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,” he said later after Harris avoided a direct answer.

But after last week’s bullying, unhinged performance from President Trump, followed by his hospitalization for the virus his administration has repeatedly downplayed, Pence and Harris would have had to peel off their faces to generate more than a few obligatory stories. Events that in the past would have dominated weeks of news barely get a few minutes in the nightly news these days.

And in spite of all the chaos of the last six months—and last four years—Trump’s approval rating has barely budged, and he’s trailed Joe Biden consistently since the former veep won the Democratic nomination.

As Harris pointed out time and again, hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead from the coronavirus. Trump is still fighting the disease. The economy continues to struggle.

With 27 days from the election, two capable sidekicks were never going to shake up this race.