Vice President Mike Pence‘s position on women’s issues— as governor of Indiana, he signed one of the nation’s toughest anti-abortion laws and, in Congress, he led the charge to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding for non-abortion-related women’s health care— appears to be as passionately conservative in the public arena as it is in the private one, with his wife Karen.
According to a profile of the second lady in The Washington Post this week, the Pences are extremely close (Rolling Stone had already reported that the vice president, 57, calls Karen, 60, “mother”), with a sweet innocence to their love story. The Post retells the story of Karen, after eight months of dating, having a small gold cross engraved with the word “Yes” so that she would have it ready to give to Mike when he proposed, which he shortly did—over an outing to feed the ducks at a local pond.
Here’s more of what we learned in that piece:
Mike and Karen Kept in Touch Via a Red Phone — Whose Number Only Karen Had
During his time in Congress and as governor, Mike kept on his desk an antique red phone he received as a Christmas gift. It was a direct line between Karen and her husband, as only she knew its number.
“Mike Pence had that same red phone installed in his statehouse office — a reminder, both physical and symbolic, of the direct and enduring connection between Mike and Karen Pence,” The Washington Post noted, without mentioning if the phone now sits in the VP’s office at the White House.
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Karen Doesn’t Weigh in on Policy Making, but She’s Constantly by Her Husband’s Side
The vice president’s wife has claimed repeatedly that she doesn’t try to influence policy, but she’s never far from Mike.
According to the profile, Karen once accompanied her husband on a trip from Germany on Air Force Two, where she remained with him while he spoke with reporters with 20 minutes in the back of the plane. She also sat in on at least one job interview with potential hires as her husband assembled his vice-presidential staff.
“As governor, Mike Pence had a very tight inner circle, and Karen Pence was very much a part of that,” said the publisher of political newsletter Howey Politics Indiana, Brian Howey. “I would characterize her as the silent, omnipresent partner. You knew she was there, you knew there was some considerable influence she wielded, but, boy, she was not public about it.”
She Strongly Influences Mike’s Socially Conservative Stances
Mike told the Hill in 2002 that he only attends events where alcohol is served if Karen is also there, and he never eats alone with another woman.
“You can’t get a dime between them,” said Ken Blackwell, a senior domestic policy adviser on the Trump transition team. “It is not him seeking her approval, but his doing a sort of gut check with what they have learned together and come up through together in terms of their shared Christianity.”
While working as an elementary school teacher, Karen wrote a letter to the Indianapolis Star, repulsed by a story that “encourages children to think they’re gay or lesbian if they have a close relationship with a child of the same sex.” She also held Bible study while Mike served as governor.
Karen’s Tight with President Donald Trump
Trump recognizes Karen’s influence on her husband and consulted her throughout the election period.
The president is said to have spoken to Karen upon offering Mike a spot on his ballot, then apologized to her personally when the Access Hollywood tape revealing Trump making lewd comments about women leaked.
“She was a major part of our campaign, and she just never flinched,” said Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway. “Karen Pence was one of the biggest pro-Trump people and Trump defenders there was … She has a great sense of people and saw at events and rallies the enthusiasm and support for Mr. Trump.”
The Pences Used Nearly Identical Email Addresses
When the Associated Press leaked his own and Karen’s email address, Mike was furious and demanded an apology for his wife.
Their user names were exactly the same, except for one initial.