Earlier this week, Vice-President Mike Pence drew backlash following reports and photos showing that he did not don a face mask—and was the only person visible not wearing a face covering—while speaking at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
The vice-president attempted to defend his actions, saying that he is tested regularly for the coronavirus and wanted to look essential workers in the eye and say thank you.
His wife, Karen Pence, also came to his defense, claiming in an interview on Fox News that Pence did not know about Mayo Clinic’s mask policy, which was recently updated to require all patients and visitors to wear masks on-site.
The Mayo Clinic had deleted a tweet from earlier this week saying that the vice-president was made aware of the policy, which would signal a contradiction to what Karen Pence said on Fox & Friends.
Following up on Karen Pence’s statement, Steve Herman, a White House reporter from Voice of America, clarified that everyone who traveled with the vice-president that day was notified, by the vice-president’s office no less, that they would be required to wear masks and to prepare accordingly.
This contradiction prompted Pence’s office to lash out, according to the Washington Post, and reportedly retaliate against the reporter, accusing him of violating the off-the-record terms of the memo that had been sent to reporters ahead of Pence’s trip.
The Post reports that Herman was later told by the White House Correspondents’ Association that he was banned from further travel with the vice-president on Air Force Two. However, Pence’s office later claimed that punishment was still under discussion, pending an apology from the reporter or his news organization.
Voice of America is still in discussions with Pence’s staff.
“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.”