U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Vice President's office reportedly threatens censure over tweet

Incident Details

REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi

Vice President Mike Pence received criticism for not wearing a mask while visiting COVID-19 research facilities at the Mayo Clinic.

— REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi
April 30, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence’s office reportedly threatened to take punitive actions against a Voice of America reporter for a tweet he posted on April 30, 2020.

Pence’s staff alleged that White House bureau chief Steve Herman had violated an off-the-record agreement after the vice president’s trip to the Mayo Clinic, The Washington Post reported.

Herman’s tweet disclosed that Pence’s office had informed the pool journalists coming on the trip that they would need to wear face masks during the visit in accordance with the clinic’s precautionary policy against spreading the coronavirus.

Pence received considerable criticism after he was photographed as the only person in the room not following the guideline. His wife Karen Pence said in a Fox News interview that the vice president had not been aware of the guideline until after the visit.

Herman tweeted in direct response to the Second Lady’s assertion, apparently “enraging” Pence’s staff which alleged he had inappropriately shared details of a logistical memo, the Post reported.

The planning document, shared with the Post, is marked “OFF THE RECORD AND FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY,” which is standard operational security on official White House trips. Questions remain, however, about how long publications are barred from printing such details.

Herman told the Post that the White House Correspondents’ Association notified him that he would be barred from further travel on Air Force Two at the behest of the vice president’s office.

Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, did not respond to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s request for comment.

A spokesperson for Pence’s office did inform VOA that any punishment was still under discussion, pending an apology from Herman or the outlet, the Post reported.

In a statement to the Post, Herman said, “My tweet speaks for itself.”

“We always have and will strictly adhere to keeping off the record any White House communications to reporters for planning purposes involving logistics that have security implications prior to events,” he said.

VOA Director Amanda Bennett told the Tracker in a statement that the outlet adheres to the highest journalistic standards.

“VOA’s credibility relies on presenting ‘a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions,’ as the Charter states,” she said.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].