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Trust Index: Fact-checking claims during vice presidential debate about China travel restrictions

Coronavirus & Trump administration’s response was first topic discussed during Pence-Harris debate

Vice President Mike Pence answers a question as Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listens during the vice presidential debate Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Kingsbury Hall on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool) (Morry Gash, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The topic of the coronavirus and the Trump administration’s response to it was the first topic discussed during the vice presidential debate Wednesday night between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris.

When Pence, who serves as the chairman of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was asked why the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus is higher than that of any other wealthy nation, he said this about President Donald Trump’s immediate response to the COVID-19 threat:

“Before there were more than five cases in the United States, all people who had returned from China, President Donald Trump did what no other American president had ever done, and that was that he suspended all travel from China -- the second-largest economy in the world."

While Trump did restrict travel from China, his policy was not an actual ban.

According to the proclamation on the White House website, dated Jan. 31 and taking effect on Feb. 2, there were several groups of people who the travel restrictions did not apply to.

The restrictions did not apply to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, the spouses of citizens, and the parents and siblings of citizens and permanent residents who are under 21 -- in addition to several other exemptions.

The News4Jax Trust Index team rates this claim as “Be Careful” because there was no actual ban of all travel from China, starting on Feb. 2.

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Pence also criticized Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, claiming the former vice president called Trump’s travel restrictions from China to the United States “xenophobic.”

While Biden has called the president’s response to the virus “xenophobic,” the comments were never in direct reference to the travel restrictions.

The News4Jax Trust Index team is warning readers to “Be Careful” as this claim can be considered misleading.

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About the Authors:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.