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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden joined by his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP) Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden joined by his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden joined by his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy August 14, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • Fox News host Jeanine Pirro said she has “this feeling that Joe Biden isn’t going to be on the ticket. I have a sense that something is going to happen before the election.”

  • There’s no evidence to suggest that the final ballot won’t include Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

  • Some have responded to Biden’s vice presidential pick, Kamala Harris, by warning that she would secretly call the shots or take over before Biden’s first term ends. There is no evidence to support this.

In an Aug. 12 monologue that prompted a correction from fellow Fox News host Bret Baier, Jeanine Pirro speculated, without evidence or explanation, that former Vice President Joe Biden wouldn’t be the Democratic nominee for president come Election Day.

There’s no evidence that the final ballot won’t include Biden. The presumptive Democratic nominee for president made his first public appearance with new running mate Sen. Kamala Harris moments before Pirro’s remark.

"For some reason, I just have this feeling that Joe Biden isn’t going to be on the ticket," said Pirro, a former county judge and prosecutor and current talk show host on Fox News. "I have a sense that something is going to happen before the election and he’s not even going to be on the ticket. So don’t even ask me if he’s going to make the four years." 

Pirro’s conspiracy echoed attacks from President Donald Trump’s campaign, allies and supporters on social media, some of whom have said Biden will carry out the agenda of his party’s progressive wing or suggested that he will hand over the reins to a vice president before his term ends. 

The rumors started even before Biden named his vice presidential pick, and they followed months of attacks focused on Biden’s age and health. If elected, Biden, 77, will become the oldest American president to take office, a title Trump currently holds.

Pirro’s comments came on "The Five" after co-host Jesse Watters asked about a Rasmussen poll that found more than half of likely voters surveyed believe Biden won’t finish his term. 

The show’s other personalities also jumped in. Watters clarified that "we certainly don’t hope that anything happens to Vice President Joe Biden anytime soon," and Baier noted that Biden will almost certainly represent the Democratic Party, whose nomination he clinched in June.

Fox News pointed to Baier’s response when we reached out for comment.

"Last night was the last Democratic primary in Connecticut, where 60 delegates went to Joe Biden. So he is going to be the nominee," Baier said. "Next week, we’re going to see the official nomination. You’re saying that he doesn’t make it all the way. The bumper stickers are already printed. It’s Biden-Harris. He’s going to be the nominee as of next week."

Pirro attempted to clarify her comments but offered no further explanation. She said she wished him "all good health" and knew that "he’s got the numbers" to earn the nomination.

We wanted to take a closer look at these lines of attack from GOP supporters. The Biden campaign and Democratic National Committee did not respond to our inquiries.

Pirro is speculating with no evidence

Larry Sabato, the founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said Pirro’s remarks about Biden were "in very poor taste." 

"Biden is 77, not 87 or 97," said Sabato, who also runs Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a newsletter for political analysis and forecasting. "To suggest that a man who is in reasonably good shape, eats well, exercises, has a stimulating job and a mission in life is on his deathbed is outrageous."

Other Trump allies and Fox News personalities, including "The Five" co-host Greg Gutfield, also suggested that Biden will drop out of the race before Election Day. 

"When he drops out, does she move to become the ‘P’ or does she stay at ‘VP’ and they put something else in there?" Gutfield said Aug. 11.

Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, said in a live stream that with Biden’s pick, "He’s essentially entered into a political living will now because he's made it clear that he plans to turn the reins over very quickly."

And Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, responded to Harris’ selection by claiming on Twitter that "Biden didn’t just select a VP candidate, he chose the person who will actually be in charge if he were somehow able to win."

"Kamala Harris is her party’s de-facto nominee for president," she added days later.

Like Pirro, some social media users have taken those claims a step further. One Facebook post said "establishment Democrats" had "orchestrated" a plot to have the vice president "take over quickly." The July 23 post has received more than 68 thousand shares on the platform. 

"There are no intentions for a Biden presidency," it said, arguing that Democrats will "use Biden to try and get the middle of the road vote so they can install a hard leftist shortly thereafter."

But there’s no evidence that Biden intends to bow out of the White House. Biden won 42 state contests in a long primary election that saw more than 20 candidates join the fray. He will enter the party’s convention with 2,671 pledged delegates, according to the Associated Press. On Aug. 14, he signed official documents related to accepting the party’s nomination.

He was not hand-picked by the establishment as a front for his party’s more liberal members.

How liberal is Harris?

Since Biden’s announcement, Trump and his allies have characterized Harris as both a staunch liberal and someone who isn’t liberal enough. Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale described her selection on Twitter as "Bernie bros get burnt."

On the same day that McDaniel tweeted about Harris’ "extreme positions," the RNC blasted out a memo to reporters highlighting instances of progressive activists and others expressing disappointment in Harris’ record. The subject line: "Liberals revolt against Biden, Harris ticket."

The Trump campaign, meanwhile, called her "proof that Joe Biden is an empty shell being filled with the extreme agenda of the radicals on the left."

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate, speaks during a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 12, 2020. (AP)

One ranking of senators from GovTrack, a nonpartisan organization that monitors congressional legislation, ranked Harris as the most liberal of all senators in 2019 based on the legislation she co-sponsored and the other co-sponsors of those bills. 

Voteview.com, a site created by political scientists, similarly scored Harris as more liberal than 99% of the Senate, while CQ Roll Call calculated that the percentage of votes in which Harris voted the same way as the majority of her party’s members was over 99%.

Harris co-sponsored the Green New Deal and has lent support for a $15 minimum wage, universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.

But her mixed record as a prosecutor has drawn criticism from activists who said she was too cautious on certain issues, and she took some moderate positions during the primary compared with ideological progressives such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

"I’m not trying to restructure society," Harris told the New York Times in 2019. "I’m just trying to take care of the issues that wake people up in the middle of the night."

Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said that in a climate of ideological polarization, the distinction "between a left-progressive and someone who is merely liberal" can be argued endlessly. But it isn’t something every voter has time to sort out.

"As far as Kamala Harris is concerned, she’s a mainstream Democrat as the party is constituted today," Sabato added. "And that means liberal."

Correction (Aug. 14, 2020): An earlier version of this post incorrectly spelled Fox News host Bret Baier's first name.

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Our Sources

Fox News on YouTube, "'The Five' fact-check claims Biden made in speech with Kamala Harris," Aug. 12, 2020

The Associated Press, "Delegate Tracker," Aug. 14, 2020

Voteview.com, "Kamala Harris," accessed Aug. 14, 2020

PBS Newshour on YouTube, "WATCH LIVE: Biden, Harris sign documents to receive Democratic nomination," Aug. 14, 2020

The Washington Post, "Election 2020 live updates: Biden, Harris to sign official documents to certify their nominations," Aug. 14, 2020

The Associated Press, "Radical or moderate? Trump paints Democratic ticket as both," Aug. 13, 2020

Fox News, "'The Five' react to Joe Biden's selection of Kamala Harris as running mate," Aug. 13, 2020

The Washington Post, "Trump backers’ dizzying response to Kamala Harris’s selection," Aug. 12, 2020

The New York Times, "Progressives Didn’t Want Harris for V.P. They’re Backing Her Anyway," Aug. 12, 2020

The Los Angeles Times, "Picking Harris, Biden puts centrist stamp on Democrats’ future," Aug. 12, 2020

The Atlantic, "The Big Reason Lefties Aren’t Upset About Kamala Harris," Aug. 12, 2020

Republican National Committee, "Chairwoman McDaniel: Biden-Harris ticket shows radical extremists have seized control of Democratic Party," Aug. 12, 2020

Roll Call, "The legislative record of Kamala Harris shows a loyal Democrat and Trump counterpuncher," Aug. 12, 2020

CBS News, "Trump and Republicans send mixed messages on Biden running mate Kamala Harris," Aug. 12, 2020

The Sacramento Bee, "How liberal is she? Watchdog groups rate the Senate record of Kamala Harris," Aug. 12, 2020

The Mercury News, "Radical left? Really? Where Kamala Harris stands on the political spectrum," Aug. 12, 2020

The Hill, "Biden wins Connecticut in final presidential primary of year," Aug. 11, 2020

Donald J. Trump on YouTube, "WATCH: Team Trump Online - Biden's VP Pick," Aug. 11, 2020

Donald J. Trump for President, "Trump Campaign Statement on Kamala Harris," Aug. 11, 2020

Ronna McDaniel on Twitter, Aug. 11, 2020

Brad Parscale on Twitter, Aug. 11, 2020

Rasmussen Reports, "59% Think Biden Unlikely to Finish A Four-Year Term in White House," Aug. 10, 2020

Facebook post, July 23, 2020

The Associated Press, "Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination," June 6, 2020

GovTrack, "Sen. Kamala Harris’s 2019 Report Card," Jan. 18, 2020

The New York Times, "What Kamala Harris Believes," July 27, 2019

Vox, "Kamala Harris’s raised hand reveals the fraught politics of Medicare-for-all," June 28, 2019

Delaware Online, "Biden would be the oldest sitting president if elected in 2020," March 8, 2019 

PolitiFact, "What Kept Kamala Harris So ‘Cautious’ As California’s Attorney General?" Aug. 13, 2020

PolitiFact, "Who is Kamala Harris? Joe Biden’s pick for vice president," Aug. 11, 2020

PolitiFact, "What you need to know about Medicare for All," Nov. 5, 2019

PolitiFact, "Bios of the Democratic presidential candidates," June 14, 2019

PolitiFact, "Kamala Harris: Criminal justice reformer, or defender of the status quo? The record is mixed," Jan. 29, 2019

Correspondence with Fox News, Aug. 14, 2020

Email interview with Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, Aug. 14, 2020

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