The marriage of Mike and Karen Pence came under the media spotlight this week thanks mostly to one line in a Washington Post profile of Karen: "In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won't attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either." That has triggered scorn and ridicule from the vice president's critics, while his defenders accuse those same critics of hypocrisy. Here's a look:
- The Post story by Ashley Parker describes how Karen, 60, is her husband's constant companion and his "gut check and shield." Among its tidbits: "During their time in the Indiana governor’s mansion, the Pences installed twin treadmills upstairs in their residence." Read it in full here.
- The 2002 article from the Hill doesn't appear to be online, but this tweet has the opening paragraphs, including a Pence quote: "If there's alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me." He said it's about "building a zone around your marriage" and avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.
- The idea of a man not dining alone with another woman is often known as the "Billy Graham rule" among evangelicals, explains the Indianapolis Star.
- One common line of criticism: "As someone who grew up Evangelical, wouldn't say it's standard exactly. But indicative of notion that women are primarily sexual temptresses," tweeted writer Elizabeth Spiers.
- Another: "If Pence won't eat dinner alone with any woman but his wife, that means he won't hire women in key spots," wrote Clara Jeffery of Mother Jones.
- Stephen Colbert couldn't resist. See the video and skip to 4:20.
- But Rod Dreher at the American Conservative sees hypocrisy in the negative reaction. "Were the Pences Orthodox Jews or practicing Muslims, nobody would have batted an eye. But they’re Evangelical Christians, so that means it’s open season on tearing them apart."
- At the Atlantic, Emma Green writes that the arrangement might seem crazy and even misogynistic to non-religious people, but not so to evangelicals, and "the dust-up shows how radically notions of gender divide American culture."
- Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast says this is the Pences' business and nobody else's. The backlash reveals "not just an irreverence for the devoutly religious (or traditional)—but also an intolerance for individual autonomy."
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