In her first one-on-one network interview since her vice presidential nomination, Sen. Kamala Harris sat down with TODAY's Craig Melvin to discuss the shooting of Jacob Blake, criticize President Donald Trump and shed light on the nationwide mask mandate that she and running mate Joe Biden have called for.
When asked how the mask mandate would be enforced, Harris responded: "It's a standard. I mean, nobody's going to be punished."
Reflecting on some ongoing pushback against mask policies, she continued: "Nobody likes to wear a mask. This is a universal feeling, right? ... The point is this is: What we, as responsible people who love our neighbor, we have to just do that right now. God willing, it won't be forever. But this is a sacrifice we have to make."
Speaking about the president's response to the pandemic, Harris described Trump as scared of "dealing with the truth and taking on a serious matter, meaning doing what is necessary to lead."
"And you know what that requires? You get involved in the details," she said. "You actually listen instead of talking so much and you listen to the scientists and the experts. You make decisions that may not be in your personal, political best interests, but are in the interests of the people. But he's incapable of that."
She went on to address the fact that both sides of the aisle have criticized the Biden-Harris ticket, some saying it's not liberal enough and others calling them radically left, the latter of which was touted during this week's Republican National Convention.
"The most important point I think that can be made about the diversity of who we are is an embrace for the diversity of who we are," she said. "That's who we are as Democrats. ... We're not requiring people to march and fall in line.
The former attorney general of California also discussed Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old Black man shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday. Wisconsin officials said Wednesday Blake was near a knife when the shooting took place but did not specify whether he was carrying the knife when he was shot.
Asked by Craig whether there's a scenario in which the officer is justified in firing his weapon, Harris said, "I don't see it. But I don't have all the evidence.
"The man was going to his car. He didn't appear to be armed. If he was not armed, the use of force that was seven bullets coming out of a gun at close range in the back of the man, I don't see how anybody could reason that that was justifiable."
Questioned whether she believes the officer should be charged, she said: "I think that there should be a thorough investigation and, based on what I've seen, it seems that the officer should be charged."
"Everyone should be afforded due process," Harris continued. "That is absolutely one of the important tenets of our system of justice. But here's the thing. In America, we know these cases keep happening. And we have had too many Black men in America who have been the subject of this kind of conduct."
Harris also commented on "the condition of Black men in America," saying she believes there is still much progress to be made.
"We have talked about it in regards to policing in the criminal justice system, but let's talk about the realities of the fact that every man, including every Black man, wants to be able to take care of his family and live with dignity and be respected," she said.
"The Biden-Harris plan is about investing in communities with a particular concern about those communities that have been long neglected to ensure that there will be economic opportunity."
Craig also brought up Vice President Mike Pence's speech at the Republican National Convention in which he remarked, "The hard truth is, you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America."
Harris responded: "I will say this about the Republican Convention, some of which I have watched. I have yet to see these people who profess to be national leaders speak about this issue of the killing of unarmed Black men, brown men, Indigenous men in our country."
"The American people, regardless of race or gender or age or geographic location, have a right to believe that their leaders will speak truth, even when these are difficult truths, to speak and to hear," she said. "What we're seeing in the Republican Convention is for the most part a vision of America that's about darkness and not about what Joe Biden talks about, which is the light and our ability to aspire toward the light."
When the conversation turned to campaigning in the remaining weeks before the election, Harris said she is looking forward to connecting with Americans in safe ways amid the pandemic.
"It would be irresponsible of us to try and pack people into a situation where they cannot safely social distance. That would be completely irresponsible," she said. "That's one of the problems, frankly, with the way Donald Trump conducts himself because it really appears to be more about the people around him and himself doing what is necessary to feed his ego, as opposed to what is necessary to feed the needs of the American people."
To conclude, Craig asked Harris about her promise that a Biden administration would have less chaos than the current one.
"There's an old saying, 'The fish rots from the head,'" Harris explained. "Part of leadership is to set a tone for the country. We have, on the one hand, Donald Trump, who's been spending full time trying to sow hate and division in our country. On the other hand, you have Joe Biden, who has been all about saying, 'We need to unify as a country, respect the dignity of our fellow human beings, respect the dignity of public service and these offices.'"
"In this election, there are two clear choices. There're two. And which choice is reflective of who we aspire to be as a country and as a people," she said.
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