Vice President Mike Pence’s office has threatened to retaliate against a Voice of America reporter who revealed that Pence’s office had explicitly told journalists that they would be required to wear masks for Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic — a requirement the vice president himself did not abide by, reports The Washington Post.
Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic on Tuesday generated fierce backlash after he was photographed meeting with patients without a surgical mask — the only person in the room not wearing one.
In a since-deleted tweet, the Mayo Clinic clarified that it had indeed asked Pence to wear a mask at the facility.
Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday that her husband was unaware of the mask policy until his visit was over.
“As our medical experts have told us, wearing a mask prevents you from spreading disease. And knowing he doesn’t have COVID-19, he didn’t wear one,” she said on “Fox & Friends.”
“It was actually after he left Mayo Clinic that he found out they had a policy of asking everyone to wear a mask,” the second lady continued. “So someone who’s worked on this whole task force for over two months is not someone who would have done anything to offend anyone or hurt anyone or scare anyone.”
“But Steve Herman, who covers the White House for Voice of America, suggested that there was more to the story after Karen Pence’s interview,” The Post reported.
“All of us who traveled with [Pence] were notified by the office of @VP the day before the trip that wearing of masks was required by the @MayoClinic and to prepare accordingly,” tweeted Herman, who covered the trip as part of his rotation as one of the pool reporters.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) April 30, 2020
“The tweet apparently enraged Pence’s staff, which told Herman that he had violated the off-the-record terms of a planning memo that had been sent to him and other reporters in advance of Pence’s trip,” the newspaper reported. “Herman said he was notified by the White House Correspondents’ Association that Pence’s office had banned him from further travel on Air Force Two, although a spokesperson in Pence’s office later told VOA managers than any punishment was still under discussion, pending an apology from Herman or VOA.”
A copy of a planning document sent via email Monday evening by the vice president’s office to reporters who planned to travel with Pence to the clinic stated that masks are required for the visit and instructed reporters to wear them.
“Please note, the Mayo Clinic is requiring all individuals traveling with the VP wear masks,” the document said, according to a copy obtained by The Post. “Please bring one to wear while on the trip.”
At issue, according to people involved, is whether Herman’s tweet violated the off-the-record terms. The planning document is marked, “OFF THE RECORD AND FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY.”
“The directive confirms that Pence’s staff was well aware of the need for masks, raising the possibility that none of his aides alerted him to the requirement or that Pence had intentionally flouted it, perhaps to avoid being photographed in a mask,” reports The Post. “(Pence himself told reporters after the visit that because he doesn’t have the coronavirus — he is tested frequently — he decided he could “speak to these researchers, these incredible health-care personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you.”)”