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Mike Pence Does Bare Minimum of Admitting It Was a Mistake Not to Wear a Mask at the Mayo Clinic

Trump appears to glare at Mike Pence during a White House press briefing.

Mike Pence has finally done the bare minimum and admitted that, yes, he should have worn a face mask when visiting medical professionals and patients at the Mayo Clinic last week.

“I didn’t think it was necessary but I should have worn the mask at the Mayo Clinic,” he said during a Fox News “town hall” in Abraham Lincoln’s lap this weekend.

Just as a quick aside, what a weird choice for a venue. Donald Trump so desperately wants to be heralded as both a great leader and a great martyr. It’s his ultimate dream—without the downside of actually being a martyr, of course.

Anyway, in the same breath that he admits he made a mistake, Pence also notes that he did wear a mask when he toured a ventilator plant in Indiana, as if wearing a mask sometimes is a rational defense, especially when the place he chose not to wear one was a medical facility. That makes about as much sense as Karen Pence’s argument when she was asked to defend her husband. She claimed that he was somehow simultaneously unaware of the Mayo Clinic’s policy about requiring face coverings and also experienced enough to know he didn’t need one.

Except he did know he needed one, obviously. The Mayo Clinic said they informed Pence’s staff of the requirement (and it’s on their website), and reporters have said Pence’s staff informed them of the rule, so they were definitely aware. Plus, Pence was able to look around at how literally every person we saw him come into contact with was wearing a mask and, you know, take the hint.

When the backlash to his bare face first hit, Pence said that he didn’t wear a mask because he knows he doesn’t have the virus and he “thought it’d be a good opportunity” to talk to medical professionals and to “look them in the eye and say thank you.” That … almost makes sense?

The truth is, even if Pence is tested ten times a day and knew without any doubt at all that he couldn’t possibly have the virus, choosing not to wear a mask—especially in that setting—sends a message that it’s okay to go without in public, even in serious situations, even when everyone around you is taking extra precautions for their own safety and the good of the public health. It’s the same message Donald Trump sent when he first insinuated that he didn’t think wearing a mask in the Oval Office would look presidential. The goal is to put more value on the image of toughness and rebelliousness over promoting actual safety.

But after refusing to take instructions or visual cues from those around him, offering half-baked excuses that make it seem like he doesn’t know how to wear a mask, and sending his wife on Fox News to make even more excuses for him, he’s finally done the very least he could do and admit it was a mistake.

That might not seem like very much (and it’s not), but it’s more than Trump has done—not just during the pandemic, but possibly in his entire life.

(via CNN, image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.