The vice presidential debate between Sen. Kamala Harris and Mike Pence was certainly a more muted affair than last week’s debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, but it certainly managed to spawn plenty of chatter nonetheless. And much of that chatter was about Pence’s left eye, which looked pretty red.
Yo what’s up with Pence’s eye?
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 8, 2020
Is that pink eye 👀 That left eye looks pink. #VPDebate2020
— Taraji P. Henson (@tarajiphenson) October 8, 2020
Pence’s eye is getting redder as this debate progresses… pic.twitter.com/V4ATXpGUqD
— Roland Scahill (@rolandscahill) October 8, 2020
How Pence eye look right now pic.twitter.com/nCi9rogk70
— Josiah Johnson (@KingJosiah54) October 8, 2020
Seriously, Pence’s eye is getting worse in real time #VPDebate2020
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) October 8, 2020
There was also a common thread in many of the responses on Twitter: conjuntivitis, or pink eye, is one possible symptom of a COVID-19 infection. Which is relevant given the coronavirus outbreak in the White House. WebMD no doubt got a surge of traffic to this article about that very topic given how often it was shared during the debate on Wednesday night.
'Pink Eye' Often a Symptom of COVID-19 https://t.co/JYl1aWhVNv
— Meredith Salenger (@MeredthSalenger) October 8, 2020
Subtle message regarding Pence's left eye: pic.twitter.com/9jfqOm6obH
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) October 8, 2020
Just tweeting this out for no particular reason https://t.co/Z45ZiGyKvZ
— Molly Jong-Fast🏡 (@MollyJongFast) October 8, 2020
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) October 8, 2020
Pink eye is a symptom of Covid-19. Saying that for no reason at all.
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) October 8, 2020
Undead VP's Rona eye is so disturbing.
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) October 8, 2020
Uhhh, what's with Pence's R eye? Viral conjunctivitis (pink eye)?!? Great, *another* contagious virus in the house… #VPDebate
— Lipi Roy, MD, MPH, FASAM (@lipiroy) October 8, 2020
As you are likely aware if you’re paying attention to news about the vice presidential debate, Donald Trump is currently infected with COVID-19, as are many others who work in the White House. There was a concern coming into the vice presidential debate that Pence might have it as well, and so the candidates were moved to 13 feet apart — up from seven feet during last week’s debate — and plexiglass barriers were placed on the stage between them.
Pence has said that he has been tested daily and has not tested positive. And in a statement provided to NBC News after the debate, his press secretary, Devin O’Malley, said Pence took a rapid antigen test with a PCR on Tuesday and Wednesday and tested negative both times, calling talk he might have COVID-19 “completely reckless.” However, that isn’t necessarily a definitive answer, as PCR tests have up to a 20% false negative rate, according a study by Johns Hopkins researchers.
And even without that false negative rate, that doesn’t mean Pence is free of infection.
An internal government memo obtained by ABC News revealed that at least 34 people connected to the White House have thus far tested positive for COVID-19. Among them are the First Lady Melania Trump, presidential advisers Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, KellyAnne Conway, Chris Christie, three political reporters who cover the White House, and two members of the housekeeping staff at the White House.
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniels and Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien also tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.
His eye wasn’t the only surprising way that Pence made inadvertent waves during the debate. In the last third of the 90-minute show, a fly landed on the top of the vice president’s head, sending Twitter into a tizzy.