Vice President Mike Pence defended the administration’s decision to hold a packed event in the White House Rose Garden 11 days ago amid a global pandemic, days before the President, first lady, and multiple attendees tested positive for Covid-19.
Pence framed his response through the lens of personal freedom as he answered a question from vice presidential debate moderator Susan Page about the event, that, Page suggested, “seems to have been a super spreader event,” and how the administration could expect Americans to follow safety guidelines when they did not follow them themselves.
There was no social distancing in the Rose Garden. Very few attendees wore masks. At least 12 people have since tested positive.
“The American people have demonstrated over the last eight months — they’ve been given the facts, they’re willing to put the health of their families and their neighbors and people they don’t even know first. President Trump and I have great confidence in the American people and their ability to take that information and put it into practice,” Pence said.
Pence further defended the decision to hold the event.
“The reality is, the work of the President of the United States goes on. A vacancy in the Supreme Court of the United States has come upon us and the president introduced Judge Amy Coney Barrett,” he said.
He dismissed questions that the event could have been a “super spreader” as “a great deal of speculation, and noted that “many,” though not all, people at the event “actually were tested for coronavirus.”
He also highlighted that the event was outside, “Which all of our scientists regularly routinely advise.” However, before guests headed to the Rose Garden, some attended gatherings inside the White House reception rooms where social distancing was not practiced — including with hugs and handshakes.
“The difference here is President Trump and I trust the American people to make choices in the best interest of their health,” he said, pivoting to criticize Democratic nominee Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate for “consistently” talking about mandates.
This is how the question played out: