By ÉVA MILAN ENGEL | Junior Reporter
Junior Reporter Éva Milan Engel shared her experience traveling to Salt Lake City for the vice presidential debate on October 7. Though she did not receive one of the limited number of media credentials, she covered the debate from a hotel room.
I had the opportunity to travel to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the only vice presidential debate of this election between Democratic Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence.
My family and I drove the 11-hour journey over the course of two days, overnighting in St. George, Utah, each way. This meant that my sister and I attended all our Zoom classes on the road that week. Everything went relatively smoothly given that we were sharing a hotspot for internet.
We were slowed down, however, by a fatal car accident that happened a half mile ahead of us on the 15 freeway just north of Las Vegas. We waited almost four hours for the road to open before my dad gave up and took an alternate, longer route to get us there.
We arrived on the University of Utah campus on Tuesday afternoon where all journalists had to get COVID tests. Members of the media then picked up credentials and were given a bag full of swag, including red, white and blue popcorn, debate-themed mask, thermos, notebook, pen, and other goodies.
On Wednesday, debate day, the campus was bustling. The staff from the Commission on Presidential Debates, which sponsored the event, were identifiable by their badges.
University student volunteers, who had been working for two weeks to set up, could be seen checking credentials and driving golf carts.
The media descended on the President’s Circle, where Kingsbury Hall, the location of the debate, sits. None of the media were allowed in the venue except for a few pool cameras.
All broadcast media were positioned on risers outside Kingsbury Hall, and all print media sat in a large tent called the media center where they watched the debate on television screens.
The style of the two candidates are quite different: Pence is stoic and rarely gets rattled on stage. He’s a seasoned debater, and his experience as a radio talk show host in the 1990s prepared him to think on his feet. Harris, a former courtroom prosecutor, has proven herself as a polished speaker.
This debate was much less raucous than the Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden the week prior. But the candidates sparred over the pandemic, climate change, racial injustice and police reform.
Harris started off with sharp criticism of the Trump Administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic: “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country … On January 28th, the Vice President and the President were informed about the nature of this pandemic … They knew what was happening, and they didn’t tell you,” she said as she looked squarely into the camera at the viewing audience.
Pence deflected, “China is to blame for the coronavirus. But President Trump is not happy about it.”
Harris attacked Pence on climate change, “The west coast of our country is burning, including my home state of California … I served, when I first got to the Senate, on the committee that’s responsible for the environment. Do you know that this administration took the word ‘science’ off the website? And then took the phrase ‘climate change’ off the website.”
Pence pointed to the economic challenges of progressive climate change efforts, “We don’t need a massive 2 trillion dollar Green New Deal that would impose all new mandates on American businesses and American families.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.