ABC late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel on Friday half-heartedly apologized for a deceptively edited clip of Vice President Mike Pence supposedly admitting to carrying empty boxes of personal protective equipment to a nursing home in Virginia as part of a publicity stunt.
During his Thursday night broadcast, Kimmel mocked the vice president over the press event which showed a maskless Pence helping other workers deliver PPE from FEMA to the front of the facility.
“Here he is, with no mask on, wheeling boxes of PPEs into a health-care center, and doing his best to lift them,” Kimmel said, narrating over C-SPAN footage. “What a hero.”
Noting that Pence seemingly didn’t realize he had a microphone on throughout the photo-op, the Jimmy Kimmel Live host then highlighted a moment in which Pence talked to another official near the van carrying the boxes of equipment.
In the clip shown by Kimmel, the worker pointed out that the boxes in the van are empty, prompting Pence to respond: “Well, can I carry the empty ones, just for the camera?”
Kimmel’s video cut off at that point. During the Thursday night segment, he then claimed that the veep had delivered empty boxes as a publicity stunt. “Mike Pence pretending to carry empty PPEs into a hospital is the perfect metaphor for who he is and what he’s doing,” Kimmel exclaimed. “A big box of nothing delivering another box of nothing.”
The clip went viral on Friday morning, aided by a boost from Democratic activist Matt McDermott, who accused Pence of being “caught on hot mic delivering empty boxes of PPE for a PR stunt.” His tweet was quickly shared tens of thousands of times and some digital outlets wrote it up with headlines blaring that Pence had been “BUSTED.”
But as BuzzFeed News reporter David Mack first pointed out, the Kimmel clip was missing some very important context.
As it turns out, the full video of the event shows that after Pence made the remark about carrying empty boxes, the other official laughed and quipped that “they’re a lot easier.” Following the conclusion of their jokey back-and-forth, Pence then immediately closed the van door and did not carry any additional boxes.
Pence spokesperson Jon Thompson lashed out at Kimmel on Twitter, calling the clip “absolute garbage” and pointing out that Pence “is clearly joking about empty boxes.” And Mack noted that after he contacted Kimmel’s representatives for comment, the show’s official Twitter account deleted the tweet of the clip.
“[I]t would appear that @vp was joking about carrying empty boxes for a staged publicity stunt. The full video reveals that he was carrying full boxes for a staged publicity stunt,” Kimmel wrote. “My apologies. I know how dearly this administration values truth.”
McDermott’s tweet, however, is still up and has accumulated nearly 60,000 retweets and 140,000 likes as of publication. Instead of deleting the original tweet, like Kimmel did, McDermott posted “additional context” while criticizing Pence for even “joking about empty boxes of PPE during a publicity stunt” during a pandemic.