Second Lady Karen Pence made a surprising defense of her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, in an interview with Fox & Friends about his decision to forgo a face mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic. After the Vice President visited the Minnesota facility on Tuesday, with the intent to spotlight the ongoing research of coronavirus treatments, he was criticized for appearing to be the only person not wearing a mask. On Thursday, his wife provided what some are calling a "reason" for his masklessness.
According to the second lady, Pence was apparently unaware of the Mayo Clinic’s policy requiring all visitors to wear face masks. “As our medical experts have told us, wearing a mask prevents you from spreading disease. And knowing he doesn’t have COVID-19, he didn’t wear one,” she said. “It was actually after he left Mayo Clinic that he found out that they had a policy of asking everyone to wear a mask.” A report from CNN disputed that claim, stating that Pence’s team was briefed by the clinic days before his scheduled visit.
The second lady’s comments come as Pence receives immense backlash for his decision not to wear a face mask, especially since he has spearheaded the coronavirus task force at the White House. In a now-deleted tweet, the Mayo Clinic said it had informed the Vice President of its masking policy before his arrival. The policy, issued April 13 states that all patients and visitors are required to wear a face covering or mask, per recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The vice president also defended his decision not to wear a mask, stating that the face coverings are meant to prevent people who have the virus from spreading it. Still, wearing face masks can keep people safe, especially because a system of widespread testing is not currently in place across the country, and a significant number of people carrying the virus remain asymptomatic. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC said in a recent interview that the number could be as high as 25 percent.
Despite Karen Pence’s assertion that the vice president was unaware of the Mayo Clinic’s policy, there are nationwide mandates requiring people to wear face masks in public spaces. The White House even put out guidelines earlier this month recommending that individuals wear "non-medical cloth" face coverings when leaving their homes.