The rare times Mike Pence made headlines

The rare times Mike Pence made headlines
Mike Pence made headlines rarely during the first term of Trump's presidency. Source: AP
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Daily US Times: In picking Mike Pence, ‍a veteran politician, as his vice-president in 2016, Donald Trump went with a safe choice that would also help secure him the evangelical Christian vote.

Mr Pence once described himself as “A Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order”. You could say he’s added steadfast Trump soldier to that list in the last three years.

Mr Pence has stayed largely out of the headlines since becoming Mr Trump’s right-hand man, diligently following the president’s lead, demonstrating the sort of public loyalty Mr Trump values and defending his policies.

Joel Goldstein, a professor of law at St Louis University who has written books about the vice-presidency, says: “Pence works for a president who insists on the spotlight and he is very careful to defer so as not to ruffle Trump’s feathers.”

But Mr Goldstein says, there are times when he is very visible, like last week when he did a number of talk shows after the Democratic convention. Other vice-presidents have not been so keen to get in front of the cameras.

Mr Pence has diligently following the president’s lead. Source: Getty Images

Here are some times during Mr Trump’s first term that the vice-president took centre stage.

Leading the coronavirus taskforce

Mr Trump set the job of heading the White House Covid-19 taskforce on his vice-president’s shoulders in February.

Since then, he has fervently defended the administration’s response to the pandemic, praising the President’s actions even as the US faces millions of cases and over 177,000 deaths.

Pence is chair of the White House coronavirus taskforce. Source: AP

Mr Pence denied the notion of a second wave of infections and misleadingly attributed the nation’s surges to testing. He made headlines more recently for refusing to wear a mask during a visit to a top US hospital, despite its policies.

But the Vice-President has also garnered some praise for working with governors on both sides of the aisle behind the scenes, even as Mr Trump publicly feuded with them during briefings.

No dining with women (without his wife)

Mr Pence sent the internet into a tizzy after it emerged in 2017 that the vice-president once said he did not dine alone with women or attend events where alcohol is available unless his wife joins him.

The remark is decades-old and it came up in a Washington Post profile of his wife, Karen, and is a rule relatively common among religious conservatives. The late Billy Graham, an influential US evangelist, helped popularise the idea.

Mr Pence told the Hill newspaper in 2002: “If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me,” calling it “building a zone around your marriage”.

Mr Pence, his wife Karen and daughter Charlotte at the 44th March for Life anti-abortion rally. Source: Getty Images

Twitter users were quick to jokingly wonder if Mr Pence would refuse to meet with female world leaders, but it is not clear if he still abides by the rule.

Michael Flynn’s resignation

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was the highest ranking official brought down by the inquiry into Russian election meddling – and his lies to the Vice-President were at the centre of it.

In a phone conversation with Mike Pence before Mr Trump took the oath to the office, Mr Flynn lied about having discussed lifting US sanctions on Russia with Russia’s ambassador.

In 2017, Flynn was forced to resign, as Mr Trump said he had lost faith in him after Flynn misled Mr Pence.

Pence told CBS News in December: “What I can tell you is that I knew that [Flynn] lied to me, and I know the president made the right decision with regard to him.”

The former national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the same contacts, but in 2020, withdrew that plea.

Since then, the White House has warmed up to him – after the Justice Department dropped Flynn’s charges in May, Mr Pence said he would welcome Flynn back to the administration.

Addressing anti-abortion rallies

In 2017, Mike Pence became the first sitting vice-president to attend the anti-abortion March for Life rally, telling the demonstrators: “Life is winning again in America.”

He enacted some of the most restrictive laws against abortions during his tenure as Indiana governor. He’s also long been an opponent of Planned Parenthood, which provides family planning and abortion services across the country.

The anti-abortion track record of Mr Pence endeared him to religious conservatives and helped bring some evangelical heft to Mr Trump’s campaign.

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