Apparently determined to keep Mask-gate alive, Vice President Mike Pence’s office is threatening retaliation against a White House pool reporter who revealed on Twitter that Pence’s staff knew about the Mayo Clinic’s requirement that visitors wear face coverings.
Pence chose not to wear a mask during his visit to the clinic’s Minnesota headquarters on Tuesday, sparking harsh criticism. After Pence’s wife, “mother” Karen, claimed Thursday that he didn’t know about the policy prior to the visit, Voice of America reporter Steve Herman revealed on Twitter that the vice president’s staff was certainly aware of the rule.
Pence’s office was none-too-pleased with Herman’s tweet, and has threatened to bar him from Air Force Two until he apologizes. At issue is whether the memo to which Herman referred was “off the record.”
The Washington Post reports: A copy of the document obtained by The Washington Post explicitly 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. “Please bring one to wear while on the trip.” 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. (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.”) However, the planning document is marked, “OFF THE RECORD AND FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY.” The off-the-record designation is standard for such logistical memos, indicating reporters are obligated not to publish or report the information. The White House typically keeps planning information confidential to maintain security for official trips. But there’s some question about how long the obligation lasts — whether it is permanent or only applies to the period before and during the trip.
On Thursday, Pence wore a mask during a visit to a General Motors facility making ventilators in Indiana.
But WaPo notes there could be more to the story. President Donald Trump recently attacked Voice of America, a government-funded independent news agency. And Pence’s office didn’t threaten another reporter, Gordon Lubold of the Wall Street Journal, who also accompanied Pence to the Mayo Clinic, and posted a tweet similar to Herman’s on Thursday.
Read the full story here.