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 neighbors, we have to just do that right now. God willing, it won't be forever. But this is a sacrifice we have to make."
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. On Wednesday, Wisconsin officials said 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."
Addressing "the condition of Black men in America," she continued: "We know we still have a whole lotta work to do. 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."
"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 statement from his speech at the Republican National Convention, in which he said, "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.
To conclude the conversation, 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,