World

Fly on Pence's head steals the limelight in US V-P debate

SALT LAKE CITY: Oh to be a fly on the wall - or in the hair - at Wednesday's US vice-presidential debate.

Mr Mike Pence received an unwelcome visitor during his showdown with Democrat Kamala Harris when a large fly perched on the Vice-President's white hair for two minutes, triggering an avalanche of online commentary.

"That fly was in Pence's hair a long time. It should quarantine," former Missouri secretary of state Jason Kander added, seemingly alluding to the spread of the coronavirus through the White House.

But fly or no fly, both candidates debated in earnest though the tone was civil, unlike the first presidential debate between US President Donald Trump and Democratic contender Joe Biden.

Ms Harris and Mr Pence clashed over the Trump administration's handling of the pandemic. She went after Mr Trump's record on healthcare, the economy, climate change and foreign policy while Mr Pence defended the administration.

"The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country," Ms Harris said as the debate began at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

In response, Mr Pence blamed China for the pandemic and touted the administration's efforts to battle the disease.

He was questioned about the administration's White House event last month announcing Mr Trump's latest Supreme Court nomination, where masks and social distancing were mostly absent.

A number of prominent attendees, including the president himself, have since tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr Pence noted that the event was outdoors before criticising Ms Harris and Mr Biden, who have said they would mandate masks on federal property and encourage the practice nationwide, for not respecting people's freedom to make their own choices on health.

"You respect the American people when you tell them the truth," Ms Harris retorted.

Ms Harris assailed Mr Trump for reportedly paying US$750 (S$1,020) a year in federal income taxes as president.

"When I first heard about it, I literally said, 'You mean US$750,000?'" Ms Harris said.

"And it was like, 'No - US$750.'" - AFP, REUTERS

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