Vice President Mike Pence deflected and pivoted when repeatedly pressed on the Sunday news shows on President Donald Trump’s “liberate” tweets seemingly inciting civil unrest against states implementing social distancing guidelines—the very same practices that the Trump administration has itself recommended.
A day after announcing a three-phase map for states to gradually reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, the president rage-tweeted on Friday, calling for three states—all swing states with Democratic governors—to be liberated. Trump would later defend his support for protests against stay-at-home orders, saying the protesters were “very responsible people.”
Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace immediately confronted Pence on the growing anti-quarantine protests, asking him to personally weigh in while also noting that many of the participants were ignoring social distancing.
Pence, for the most part, swept that question aside in favor of generally praising the president’s handling of the pandemic before saying that Trump now wants to get the country back to work.
“No one wants to reopen America more than President Donald Trump,” Pence said. “And what you see, I think, among millions of Americans who have been embracing those social distancing measures and making the sacrifices is they want their governors to find a way to responsibly and safely reopen their state economies.”
Wallace, meanwhile, pointed out that in many cases “these protesters—who are not social distancing—are saying they don’t want to wait” and are actually protesting against the administration’s own guidelines to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
Highlighting Trump’s “liberate” tweets, the Fox anchor noted that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said the president is “fomenting domestic rebellion,” and asked Pence what the president’s tweets mean since the administration’s own guidelines call for a “very phased and gradual” reopening of the country.
“The American people know that no one in this country wants to reopen this country more than President Donald Trump,” Pence replied. “And on Thursday, the president asked us to lay out guidelines for how the states can responsibly do that.”
“And in the president’s tweets and public statements, I can assure you he’s going to continue to encourage governors to find ways to safely and responsibly let America go back to work,” the veep added, completely dodging Wallace’s question.
Over on NBC’s Meet the Press, anchor Chuck Todd also stated that the three states Trump targeted are all following the administration’s guidelines, pressing Pence to explain what the president is trying to liberate them from.
As he did with Wallace, Pence ducked the question, instead talking about Trump’s hopeful wish to quickly reopen the country while parroting Trump's refrain that the “cure can’t be worse than the disease.” Todd, however, interjected to repeatedly ask what the president was tweeting about.
“I have given you a lot of leeway,” the NBC News host continued. “Why is the president trying to undermine the guidance you have been laying out? And that he’s been — he laid out this guidance on Thursday and undermined it on Friday.”
“Chuck, I don’t accept your premise, and I don’t think most Americans do either,” the vice president responded. “The president’s made it clear, he wants to reopen America, and we laid out guidelines for every state in the country to safely and responsibly reopen their economy at the time and manner of their choosing.”
Todd attempted one more time to get Pence to address the tweets, saying that it appeared the president wants to take credit for reopening the economy and blaming governors for not opening it fast enough.
“That’s what the tweet seems to imply, that he doesn’t want to own the responsibility of these necessary shutdowns,” Todd added.
Pence again waved off the question, merely replying that Americans “can be confident” that Trump wants to reopen the economy as “safely and responsibly” as possible.