The fallout from Vice President Mike Pence's decision not to wear a face mask during his visit to the May Clinic earlier this week continues. After receiving an overwhelming amount of backlash after he was the only person in his group without a face covering, despite the Mayo Clinic’s requirement, the vice president is now demanding an apology, and threatening punishment, from a reporter who revealed Pence’s office was aware of the clinic’s policy.
After Second Lady Karen Pence defended her husband during a Thursday morning appearance on Fox & Friends, alleging that her husband was not made aware of the policy until after his visit, the Voice of America reporter Steve Herman unraveled that claim in a tweet shortly after. According to Herman, the vice president’s office had informed all reporters joining the visit that a face covering was required.
That tweet did not go over well with the vice president’s office, which is now threatening punishment and demanding an apology. Herman told the Washington Post that shortly after his tweet was shared, the White House Correspondents' Association notified him that he has since been banned from further travel on Air Force Two, the vice president’s plane. Pence's office later told VOA that it had not finalized the ban but that punishment was instead under discussion pending an apology from Herman.
The potential punishment and demand of an apology is due to the fact that Pence's office claims Herman violated the off- the-record terms of a planning memo that had been sent to reporter ahead of the Tuesday visit. The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the memo that confirmed Pence's office was aware of the mask policy, reports that the memo was marked, "OFF THE RECORD AND FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY," though there is debate regarding how long the obligation lasts. Brett Bruen, the White House director of global engagement in the Obama administration, tweeted that the planning information for the visit was in the public domain and not off the record.
"My tweet speaks for itself," Herman said in a statement. "We always have and will strictly adhere to keeping off the record any White House communications to reporters for planning purposes involving logistics that have security implications prior to events...All White House pool reporters, including myself and my VOA colleagues, take this very seriously."
Meanwhile, Pence seems to have taken the backlash to heart. Touring the General Motors Kokomo, Indiana plant on, where ventilators are being produced amid the coronavirus pandemic, on Thursday, the vice president was seen wearing a face mask.