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Karen Pence's office defends her appearing without a mask at debate

Second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceSpaceX capsule arrives at International Space Station The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - World reacts to news of second COVID-19 vaccine with 90 percent efficacy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by UAE - US records 1 million COVID-19 cases in a week; governors crack down MORE’s office defended her appearance on the debate stage Wednesday night without wearing a mask.

After Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden teams to meet with Trump administration agencies Biden: 'Difficult decision' to staff administration with House, Senate members Ossoff, Warnock to knock on doors in runoff campaigns MORE (D-Calif.) debated, their spouses joined them on stage to congratulate them. But Karen Pence received criticism after she greeted her husband without a mask, while Harris’s husband, Douglas Emhoff, was wearing one. 

Kara Brooks, the second lady’s spokesperson, told The Hill in a statement that both sides had previously agreed the moment would be maskless.

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"Second Lady Karen followed an agreement established between both campaigns prior to the debate," the statement read. "Both sides agreed that the spouses would remove their masks when they walked onto the stage at the end of the debate.”

The Biden campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

The second lady was seen wearing her mask during the debate but removed it while getting onstage. 

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Both she and Mike Pence tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday ahead of the debate, less than a week after President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE, first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Watch live: Trump pardons Thanksgiving turkey Secret Service agents asked about transferring to Florida to guard Trump after he leaves office: report MORE and several White House staffers contracted the virus. 

The rules of the debate required all people to wear masks except for the vice president, Harris and moderator Susan Page. A plexiglass barrier was still placed between the two candidates who stood farther apart than usual. 

Several people condemned the second lady over social media about not wearing a mask onstage, including MSNBC anchor Ayman Mohyeldin and singer Darren Hayes.

Others defended Karen Pence, including author and Trump campaign adviser Harlan Z. Hill, who said, "If the left’s biggest criticism is that Karen Pence didn’t wear a mask when she hugged her HUSBAND, then you know we won tonight.”