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Fact check: Harris didn't say Americans aren't equipped to make their own decisions

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The claim: Kamala Harris said Americans aren’t equipped to make decisions for themselves

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s debate, both vice presidential candidates’ words are being twisted online. A post on Facebook claims Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris have different perspectives on Americans’ capabilities.

The post attributes this quote to Pence: “Trump and I trust the American people to make choices for themselves and their families — Harris and Biden want to mandate how you care for yourself.”

And it attributes this quote to Harris: “The American people aren’t equipped to make these decisions for themselves.”

“If you ignore this entire debate… and focus on just one statement made by each candidate… it would be this one, because IT SPEAKS VOLUMES. The rest is just noise…” the post’s creator wrote. She did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

More: Read the full transcript of vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris

Pence, Harris both misquoted

While a similar exchange did occur during the COVID-19 segment of Wednesday’s debate, neither Pence nor Harris said what the Facebook post puts forth as direct quotes. This information was gathered from the debate’s transcript.

Debate moderator Susan Page of USA TODAY asked Pence how he can expect Americans to follow the administration’s safety guidelines for COVID-19 when he did not follow those rules at the Rose Garden Supreme Court nomination event for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a possible “super spreader” event for the coronavirus.

In response, Pence spoke about how the American people have shown their willingness to “put the health of their families, friends and people they don’t even know first” over the past several months. Then, he addressed the Rose Garden event, specifically, which is where the post’s claim comes into play.

“Many of the people who were at that event, Susan, actually were tested for coronavirus,” he said. “And it was an outdoor event, which all of our scientists regularly and routinely advise. The difference here is President Trump and I trust the American people to make choices in the best interest of their health. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris consistently talk about mandates, and not not just mandates with the coronavirus but a government takeover of health, the Green New Deal –”

The Facebook post generalizes Pence’s comments about Americans being capable decision-makers. He did say, though, that Harris and her running mate, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, want to assert more mandates. But, the real quote still does not match with what the Facebook post attributes to Pence.

Sen. Kamala Harris swiftly reclaimed her time when Vice President Mike Pence interrupted her at the vice presidential debate.Sen. Kamala Harris swiftly reclaimed her time when Vice President Mike Pence interrupted her at the vice presidential debate.
Sen. Kamala Harris swiftly reclaimed her time when Vice President Mike Pence interrupted her at the vice presidential debate.

Harris’s comment was similarly skewed. The post claims she said the American people aren’t equipped to make decisions for themselves. Here’s what she actually said, right after Pence’s comment.

But this administration stood on information that if you had as a parent, if you had as a worker knowing you didn’t have enough money saved up, and now you’re standing in a food line because of the ineptitude of administration that was unwilling to speak the truth to the American people.

So let’s talk about caring about the American people. The American people who have had to sacrifice far too much because of the incompetence of this administration. It is asking too much of the people. It is asking too much of the people, that they would not be equipped with the information they need to help themselves to protect their parents and their children.”

Harris didn’t assert that Americans are incapable of making decisions for themselves; she argued that the Trump administration is not providing Americans with enough accurate information to ensure they have the tools needed to make the best decisions for themselves. Harris did not say what the Facebook post attributes to her.

VP debate fact check: Where Harris, Pence landed on COVID-19, taxes, economy

Our rating: False

We rate the claim that Sen. Kamala Harris said Americans “aren’t equipped” to make their own decisions as FALSE. While a similar conversation to the one claimed by the Facebook post did occur between Vice President Mike Pence and Harris, the post misquotes both of them.

Our fact-check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Harris, Pence both misquoted in false claim about debate

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