Attacks on the Press

Vice President’s Staff Threatens to Punish Reporter for Face Mask Tweets

Vice President Mike Pence visits Dennis Nelson, a recovered COVID-19 disease patient who is now donating his blood for research on the virus and disease as Pence tours Mayo Clinic facilities supporting coronavirus disease (COVID-19) research and treatment in Rochester, Minnesota, U.S., April 28, 2020. REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi

Vice President Mike Pence’s staff has threatened to retaliate against a reporter for sharing an email sent to him by Pence’s office asking members of the press to wear a mask during an official visit to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

The vice president became the target of criticism after photographs emerged of him meeting with patients and staff in a clinic without a mask, despite the clinic’s official policy requiring visitors to cover their face.

After the vice president’s wife told Fox News on April 30th that her husband did not know about the clinic’s official policy, Voice for America (VOA) reporter Steve Herman wrote on Twitter that Pence’s office had notified him and other journalists about the face-mask policy a day before the trip.

“The tweet apparently enraged Pence’s staff, which told Herman that he had violated the off-the-record terms of a planning memo that had been sent to him and other reporters in advance of Pence’s trip,” reported The Washington Post.

The document sent to journalists is marked “OFF THE RECORD AND FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY,” according to The Post, which obtained a copy of the text. 

While it is custom for officials to ask reporters to keep planning documents secret to ensure security for official trips, it is less clear whether the rule applies after a trip has already occured.

“Herman’s tweet came nearly 48 hours after the vice president’s trip had ended, suggesting the vice president’s staff was more embarrassed by the disclosure than concerned about security,” The Post wrote.

Herman told The Post that he had initially received word from the White House Correspondents’ Association that  “Pence’s office had banned him from further travel on Air Force Two,” but it remains unclear how exactly the vice president wishes to proceed. A spokesperson told VOA that they expected an apology from Herman or VOA.

Washington Post