Pence's Refusal to Mask Up at Mayo Clinic 'Bizarre,' 'Shocking'

Critics weigh in on the VP's 'infuriating' decision
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2020 2:09 AM CDT
Pence's Mask-Free Mayo Clinic Visit Called 'Bizarre,' 'Shocking'
Vice President Mike Pence, center, visits Dennis Nelson, a patient who survived the coronavirus and was going to give blood, during a tour of the Mayo Clinic Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Rochester, Minn.   (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

President Trump has made it clear he has no interest in wearing a mask, despite the CDC's guidance, and, without saying as much himself, Vice President Mike Pence is following Trump's lead. Reactions were swift after Pence was the only person who failed to wear a mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, despite the fact that the clinic has a policy requiring masks that was shared with Pence prior to the visit. A sampling of opinions:

  • "Pence’s actions are difficult to divorce from Trump’s own stance toward masks," writes Aaron Blake at the Washington Post, noting that Trump has pointed out multiple times that masks are not mandatory. "Health considerations aside, there is certainly something to be said for the leaders of a country setting an example. Trump and his administration have flirted with supporting efforts to flout more-restrictive state measures to confront the coronavirus, and now Trump and Pence are sending a signal that strict precautions might not be necessary for everyone."

  • At Slate, Christina Cauterucci calls Pence's refusal to wear a mask "reckless," "ridiculous," "bizarre," "infuriating," and "shocking"—but also not shocking, considering both the president and the VP "have made a big show of flouting the public health guidelines other Americans have been urged to follow." They both, for example, also initially refused to give up hand-shaking long after the CDC, the WHO, and the US surgeon general all recommended the practice be halted. "Pence and Trump are continuing to serve personal image over public safety, as if the responsible people wearing masks and keeping their hands to themselves are merely scaredy-cats overreacting to a minor blip in in the flu season."
  • Michael Hiltzik has an even bigger problem with the clinic's management. "What were they thinking?" he writes at the Los Angeles Times. He notes there are no exceptions listed for the clinic's mask rule or the CDC's guidance, including for vice presidents, so it's not clear why the rule was not enforced—and the clinic has so far remained silent. Pence also failed to maintain six feet between himself and others during the visit. The VP, Hiltzik writes, "made chumps of the Mayo management. ... The Mayo Clinic blew a major opportunity to communicate proper anti-virus hygiene to the public. Instead, it communicated just the opposite—that it’s not serious about its rules, that wearing face masks is just theater anyway and not really necessary, and that it will allow big shots to get away with anything."
  • The conservative Hot Air also is chiding Pence. "Maybe the minor public shaming he’ll receive for this episode will make him rethink his policy at the next photo op. At least he’s given up on shaking hands," writes Allahpundit.
  • The Intercept notes that hours after the Mayo Clinic visit, Trump mocked a man who was apparently the only person wearing a mask at a White House event. The man took it off before taking the stage, and Trump said, "Put that mask on, the way you had it," while shaking his head and smiling, causing some in the room to laugh.
(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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