"To me, that is just taunting people who are ill," former Late Show host David Letterman said Wednesday of Pence

April 30, 2020 06:19 PM
Vice President Mike Pence (right) listens on a tour of the General Motors/Ventec ventilator production facility in Kokomo, Indiana, on Thursday
Michael Conroy/AP/Shutterstock

Two days after Mike Pence declined to wear a face mask while visiting COVID-19 patients at a Mayo Clinic in Minnesota — drawing backlash from some doctors and celebrities as a result — the vice president headed to Kokomo, Indiana, to see a ventilator production facility.

This time, his face was covered.

Pence, 60, told reporters on Tuesday he didn't wear a mask to the clinic because he wanted to "look [healthcare workers and researchers] in the eye and say thank you" and had repeatedly tested negative for the virus himself.

“As vice president of the United States I'm tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus," Pence said then, citing guidelines that wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of the virus by those who have it. "And since I don't have the coronavirus, I thought it'd be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible healthcare personnel and look them in the eye and say thank you."

Appearing on Fox News on Thursday, Second Lady Karen Pence gave a differing explanation.

She said that her husband wasn't aware of the clinic's policy that everyone in the building needed to wear a mask and he wasn't putting anyone at risk because he hadn't tested positive for the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 respiratory illness.

Those defenses were not enough for some.

"He's walking around without a mask taunting these poor people who are bedridden and wearing a mask. To me, that is just taunting people who are ill," former Late Show host David Letterman told Howard Stern during an interview Wednesday, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Other celebs piled on too, including Billy on the Street host Billy Eichner and Trainwreck director Judd Apatow.

"What person sees this and isn’t disgusted?" Apatow tweeted. "If they do not lose in a landslide our country has lost its mind. It’s not just about him getting sick, it’s about him getting other people sick. If he isn’t following guidelines he has a higher chance of catching the virus."

Vice President Mike Pence (blue tie) visits the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota on Tuesday
Jim Mone/AP/Shutterstock
Vice President Mike Pence (center) speaks to medical professionals at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota on Tuesday.
Jim Mone/AP/Shutterstock

Supernatural star Misha Collins voiced his displeasure with Pence as well: "On #NationalSuperheroDay, @VP Mike Pence reminds us: only heroes wear masks," Collins tweeted along with a video clip of the vice president's visit on Tuesday.

"Do he and Trump think they’re invincible or is Pence afraid of Trump?" Barbara Streisand tweeted Tuesday. "What terrible role models for our nation."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked all Americans earlier this month to use a cloth face mask when in public in order to help slow the spread of the disease.

The Rochester Mayo Clinic's website says that "all patients, visitors and staff are required to wear a mask to decrease the risk of COVID-19 exposure," though that rule wasn't enforced for the vice president earlier this week.

Upon announcing the CDC's new recommendation on masks, President Donald Trump immediately said he wouldn't wear a face mask.

“The CDC is advising the use of non-medical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure,” Trump, 73, said during his daily coronavirus briefing on April 3. “It’s voluntary, so you don’t have to do it.”

“This is voluntary,” Trump added. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

Vice President Mike Pence visits the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota on Tuesday.
Jim Mone/AP/Shutterstock

This week, multiple Democratic politicians expressed surprise that Pence decided not to wear a mask while visiting the clinic on Tuesday.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted scathingly: "When I warned everyone in *February* that Pence doesn’t believe in science and shouldn’t be in charge of COVID response, I meant it. But I admit I did not have 'VP visits COVID patients without wearing a mask' on my bingo board."

Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz criticized Pence's reasoning, too.

"When you don't wear a mask, especially inside the Mayo Clinic, you are not being brave," the lawmaker said. "You are showing that you think the rules don't apply to you. And you are setting a dangerous example by ignoring experts."

Some doctors were also quick to decry Pence's decision.

Craig Spencer, the director of the Global Health in Emergency Medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, called Pence's decision "dangerous & disrespectful" in a tweet Tuesday.

"But it represents something more concerning," Spencer wrote. "It highlights a lack of understanding or respect of even the most basic principles of public health."

Pence's Thursday trip, when he wore a mask, was to a General Motors facility in Indiana where the manufacturer has pivoted to helping the federal government build additional ventilators amid the pandemic.

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