Fact check: Mike Pence describes Kamala Harris as radical


Claim: President Donald Trump and supporters say Kamala Harris, the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate, is a mean-spirited radical leftist eager to shrink police forces and embrace Medicare for All.

Rating: Largely untrue.

Details: In the eight weeks since she’s been on the Democratic ticket, Trump has called Harris “vicious” and “extraordinarily nasty.” Republican Party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Harris “applauds defunding of the police.” Harris wants to put “bureaucrats in charge of the nation’s health care system,” said GOP national spokeswoman Liz Harrington.

The high-powered campaign against Harris is highly unusual, said vice presidential campaign expert Joel Goldstein.

“President Trump has devoted an unusual amount of campaign rhetoric to attacking Senator Harris,” said Goldstein, a professor emeritus of law at Saint Louis University. “The Republicans have been unable to make a case against VP Biden, so President Trump is assailing Sen. Harris.”

A California U.S. senator, Harris has been prominent in the national spotlight now for only about eight weeks. In a CNN poll in June, 2019, 36% of voters had never heard of her or had no opinion.

Wednesday night, Americans will have a chance to learn more, as Harris debates for 90 minutes against Vice President Mike Pence.

Here’s what the Trump team is saying about Harris, and what’s true and what’s not:

The ‘most horrible’ senator

Claim: “I thought she was the meanest, the most horrible, most disrespectful of anybody in the U.S. Senate,” Trump told reporters August 11, discussing Harris’ 2018 grilling of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Rating: Not true

Details: Harris, a Senate Judiciary Committee member, had a long career as a prosecutor before coming to the Senate in 2017. She asked Kavanaugh a series of tough questions, notably about abortion.

“Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?” Kavanaugh looked puzzled. Harris pressed him, and he said he could not think of any at the moment.

The most liberal senator

Claim: “She’s also known, from what I understand, as being just about the most liberal person in the U.S. Senate,” Trump said in August.

Rating: Somewhat true.

Details: Harris has been one of the Senate’s most consistent liberal votes, though whether she is the most liberal is open to interpretation.

Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal advocacy group that compiles ratings based on votes it regards as crucial to its mission, gave Harris perfect scores in 2017 and 2018.

But it also gave 13 other senators perfect scores in 2017 and nine others in 2018. The Democratic Senate average was 88.8 in 2017 and 88.6 in 2018.

Medicare for All supporter

Claim: “Harris co-sponsored Bernie Sanders’ $32 trillion socialized medicine plan to turn hospitals into DMVs and put bureaucrats in charge of Americans’ health decisions,” Liz Harrington, GOP national spokeswoman, blogged on the party’s website last week.

Rating: True regarding support for Sanders’ plan.

Details: Seven months after arriving in the Senate, Harris signed on to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan. As she began her run for president in 2019, Harris told a CNN town hall in January “I believe the solution — and I actually feel very strongly about this — is that we need to have Medicare for all. That’s just the bottom line.”

In July, though, she tweaked her plan, describing her latest proposal in a piece for the Medium web site that said “we will allow private insurers to offer Medicare plans as a part of this system that adhere to strict Medicare requirements on costs and benefits.”

Defund the police?

Claim: “She applauds defunding of the police. The more suburban moms like me learn about her radical policies, the less they will like them!” tweeted the GOP’s McDaniel in August.

Rating: Not true.

Details: Defunding the police has different meanings to different people. “Defund does not mean abolish policing,” said Rashawn Ray, a fellow in governance studies at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution.

Harris has not specifically embraced the Defund the Police movement, nor has she backed abolishing law enforcement agencies. She has written extensively about ways to make police more responsive and sensitive, thoughts that date back to her days as a San Francisco prosecutor from 2004 to 2011.

On ABC’s “The View” in June, Harris said she wants to be “reimagining” how law enforcement operates, and that involves putting more resources into improving education, investment, housing and other elements that make communities safer and stronger.

Green New Deal enthusiast

Claim: “While Joe Biden and Kamala Harris champion the radical left’s Green New Deal which will destroy Michigan’s economy, President Trump is a proven champion for Michigan,” said Trump Victory spokesman Chris Gustafson last week when Jill Biden visited Michigan.

Rating: True about support for the Green New Deal

Details: Harris has been a consistent supporter of the Green New Deal, a sweeping Democratic-authored initiative to dramatically curb emissions and address climate change. Trump has said it’s a $100 trillion program, but independent analysts offer no firm cost figure.

Harris in May 2019 called herself a “proud co-sponsor” of Sen. Edward Markey’s Green New Deal resolution. She’s also a chief sponsor of the “Climate Equity Act” with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, which would have government to consider correcting racial and economic inequality when shaping environmental policy.

Harris’ 2019 “Climate Plan for the People” proposed “investing $10 trillion in public and private funding to meet the initial 10-year mobilization necessary to stave off the worst climate impacts.”.

Biden says the Green New Deal provides a framework for strong action, but is touting a less expensive alternative.

David Lightman is McClatchy’s chief congressional correspondent. He’s been writing, editing and teaching for 49 years, with stops in Hagerstown, Riverside, Calif., Annapolis, Baltimore and since 1981, Washington.

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