October 8, 2020
Mike Pence's Red Eye Sparks Speculation, Attracts Viral Interest During Vice Presidential Debate

Mike Pence's eye sparked some viral interest during the vice presidential debate on Wednesday, with many taking to the internet to speculate about why the vice president appeared to have a bright red spot.

Video from the face-off between Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris spread quickly on the internet, with many sharing close-up images of his face that appeared to show visible redness in his left pupil. Many jumped on speculation that Pence could be showing a sign of coronavirus infection, which has spread quickly through White House members including Donald Trump.

As WebMD noted, between 1 and 3 percent of people with COVID-19 will get conjunctivitis, which is commonly known as pink-eye. There was no indication that Pence had contracted the virus, as he tested negative following Trump's positive test, and WebMD noted that coronavirus is not usually the cause of redness of swelling.

"If you have conjunctivitis, it doesn't necessarily mean you have COVID-19," the site noted. "The more likely causes are the many different viruses, bacteria, chemicals, and allergens that can irritate your eyes."

But the noticeable redness during Wednesday's debate became a trending topic on social media, with many taking to Twitter to offer unfounded theories of what could have caused it. Even former White House member Omarosa Manigault Newman joined in the speculation, tweeting a picture of his red pupil and speculating that Pence looked ill.

Mike Pence speaks at the vice presidential debate.
Getty Images | Alex Wong

The sight may be familiar to those who have been following the 2020 race. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden once suffered a similar affliction during a televised event last year, which also led to speculation on the internet about the reason behind it.

As the Today show reported, Biden was speaking at a televised town hall event in September of 2019 when the outer corner of his eye appeared to fill with blood. The report added that this seemed to be caused by a subconjunctival hemorrhage, a fairly common and largely painless condition that does not cause changes in vision or swelling.

The condition is caused when a capillary breaks and bleeds, which can be sparked from a number of things including sneezes or coughs, high blood pressure, of even wearing contact lenses.

Some of those speculating on Twitter believe that Pence may have suffered the same affliction as Biden.

"Twitter is buzzing about @VP Mike Pence's left eye. It's VERY red," tweeted Joyce Peterson, a reporter with WMC Action News 5 in Memphis, Tennessee. "Pink eye is a symptom of #COVID19. Could also be a subconjunctival hemorrhage - a broken blood vessel that can occur after a strong cough or sneeze."