(CBS)–Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged Sunday that he should have worn a face mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic last week. Pence took heat online for not following the clinic’s mask policy — and his office reportedly retaliated against a journalist who pointed it out.
“I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn the mask at the Mayo Clinic,” Pence said in a Fox News virtual town hall. He emphasized that he is tested frequently for the coronavirus, so he didn’t think he posed a risk to others.
Two days after touring the Mayo Clinic, he donned a mask while visiting a General Motors plant in his home state of Indiana.
Pence credited people nationwide for following the federal guidance to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“It really is a statement about the American people, the way people have been willing to step forward, practice social distancing, wear masks in settings where they can’t do that,” he said. “As we continue to practice those principles, all of us together, I know we’ll get through this.”
Photos from Pence’s Mayo Clinic visit last Tuesday showed him as the only person in the group not wearing a mask. The renowned Minnesota medical center has a policy requiring all visitors to wear masks. Pence said at the time that he ditched a mask because, while talking to the clinic’s staff, he wanted “to look ’em in the eye” and have better conversations with them.
Pence’s wife initially claimed on Fox News that he wasn’t aware of the policy. But a Voice of America reporter who covered the trip revealed that Pence’s staff had told reporters about the Mayo Clinic’s mask policy in advance. The reporter, Steve Herman, said Pence’s office banned him from Air Force Two after he went public with the information.
The CDC recommends that all Americans wear face masks in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. But President Trump has not worn masks during the pandemic and told reporters, “I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself.”