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

Second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceMcCarthy, Ducey speak at Pence fundraiser: report Jill Biden takes starring role at difficult Olympics Pence refused to leave Capitol during riot: book MORE’s office defended her appearance on the debate stage Wednesday night without wearing a mask.

After Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisLive coverage: California voters to decide Newsom's fate Florida woman faces five years in prison for threatening to kill Harris Australia's COVID overreaction could come to US 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

"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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Both she and Mike Pence tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday ahead of the debate, less than a week after President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE, first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpFormer aide sees Melania Trump as 'the doomed French queen': book If another 9/11 happened in a divided 2021, could national unity be achieved again? Former Trump aide Stephanie Grisham planning book: 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.”