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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, then rival Democratic candidates for president, sparred during a primary debate on June 27, 2019, in Miami. (AP) President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, then rival Democratic candidates for president, sparred during a primary debate on June 27, 2019, in Miami. (AP)

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, then rival Democratic candidates for president, sparred during a primary debate on June 27, 2019, in Miami. (AP)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy April 30, 2021

No, Kamala Harris didn’t attack Joe Biden on China during a primary debate

If Your Time is short

  • Kamala Harris never said these words to Joe Biden during a debate.

  • Harris did go after Biden for his position on busing to desegregate schools in the 1970s.

More than a year before Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris to be his running mate, the future president and vice president sparred on the debate stage in Miami.

In a tense exchange, Harris attacked Biden over his record on busing to desegregate schools in the 1970s. "There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day," she said. "And that little girl was me."

Now, months into Biden’s term as president with Harris by his side, social media users have recast the exchange as a confrontation over Biden’s relationship with China.

"Anyone remember Kamala telling Joe during the debate: ‘You will do whatever the Chinese tell you! They gave your son over a billion dollars,’" says an April 24 Facebook post. The post shows images of both Harris and Biden from the June 27, 2019, primary debate in Miami.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

A screenshot of an April 24 Facebook post falsely claiming Kamala Harris attacked Joe Biden on China during a debate.

The image in the Facebook post shows the moment during the Miami debate when Harris went after Biden for his position on busing. But Harris never challenged him about China or said what the post alleges — not during the Miami debate or any other debate, the transcripts show.

Harris called off her campaign for president on Dec. 3, 2019. Before that, she participated in five Democratic primary debates, including the first in Miami. But transcripts of each debate from the Washington Post do not show Harris attacking Biden about China.

Featured Fact-check

Harris did mention China during a September debate in Houston, but the comment did not pertain to Biden or Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

"It's a complicated relationship," Harris said. "We have to hold China accountable. They steal our products, including our intellectual property. They dump substandard products into our economy. They need to be held accountable. We also need to partner with China on climate and the crisis that presents. We need to partner with China on the issue of North Korea."

Fact-checkers at Snopes, the Associated Press, Lead Stories and USA Today also found no evidence that Harris attacked Biden as the Facebook post claimed.

Hunter Biden became a target of attacks from former President Donald Trump and his allies as Trump and Biden squared off on the campaign trail. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens led to the first of his two impeachments.

In December, Hunter Biden confirmed his finances were the subject of a Justice Department probe. He has been involved in business dealings involving Chinese companies. But claims alleging wrongdoing by the elder Biden have generally remained unsubstantiated.

Our ruling

A Facebook post said, "Anyone Remember Kamala telling Joe during the Debate: ‘You will do whatever the Chinese tell you! They gave your son over a billion dollars.’"

Harris never said that during the Miami primary debate highlighted by the Facebook post, or in any of the other four primary debates she participated in, transcripts show.

We rate this Facebook post Pants on Fire!

RELATED: Harris did not call Biden a racist during her busing attack

Our Sources

Facebook post, April 24, 2021

Various searches on CrowdTangle, April 30, 2021

USA Today, "Fact check: Kamala Harris didn't say Joe Biden would 'do whatever the Chinese tell you' at debate," April 29, 2021

Associated Press, "Harris didn’t accuse Biden of bending to China in debate," April 29, 2021

Lead Stories, "Fact Check: Kamala Harris Did NOT Say, 'You Will Do Whatever The Chinese Tell You' To Joe Biden During Debate," April 29, 2021

Snopes, "Did Kamala Harris Tell Biden ‘You Will Do Whatever the Chinese Tell You’ During Dem Debate?" April 29, 2021

The Washington Post, "Transcript: The November Democratic debate," Nov. 21, 2019

The Washington Post, "The October Democratic debate transcript," Oct. 16, 2019

The Washington Post, "Transcript: The third Democratic debate," Sept. 12, 2019

The Washington Post, "Transcript: Night 2 of the second Democratic debate," July 31, 2019

The Washington Post, "Transcript: Night 2 of the first Democratic debate," June 28, 2019

NBC News on YouTube, "Democratic Presidential Debate - June 27 (Full) | NBC News," June 27, 2019

PolitiFact, "The Hunter Biden investigations: An update," Dec. 15, 2020

PolitiFact, "Tony Bobulinski, Hunter Biden and China: an explainer," Oct. 29, 2020

PolitiFact, "Hunter Biden and China: Sorting through a murky business deal," May 22, 2020

PolitiFact, "Timeline: The Trump impeachment inquiry," Oct. 3, 2019

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump's accusations about Hunter Biden and a payout from China: A closer look," Oct. 2, 2019

PolitiFact, "Joe Biden oversimplifies his school busing record in Miami debate," June 28, 2019

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking the 2nd night of the Democratic debate in Miami," June 27, 2019

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More by Bill McCarthy

No, Kamala Harris didn’t attack Joe Biden on China during a primary debate

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